I strongly promote using games to reinforce math skills. They encourage families to enjoy quality time together and children are practicing math facts without even knowing it. Games also provide the opportunity to learn strategic thinking and of course valuable sportsmanship skills.
Existing games like Yahtzee, Cribbage, Miles Bourne and even Monopoly (through money), all use loads of math. Various card games involve math concepts such as sequences, ordering, grouping, sets, probability and various levels of arithmetic for score keeping. There are also dozens of specialty board, card and dice games that focus on math.
The game thirty one is often played in grade two and three classrooms. Each player is dealt three cards. The player may either pick up the last discard or take a new card. A card is discarded at the end of the turn. The player that comes closest to 31 with three cards in the same suit is the winner. Play continues until a player knocks twice on the table. After the knock the other players get one last turn. The hands are then shown and the hand closest to 31 wins. A player who hits 31 exactly wins automatically and does not have to knock. You may choose to play several rounds up to 100 by giving points to the winner’s hand and negative points for the cards left in the other players’ hands.
Other fun card games that use addition and grouping are Rummy and Canasta. It is best to start off teaching your child easier games before learning Bridge. Start simple and work your way up to more challenging card games. Play several open handed rounds first to teach the game to your child. Or play with partners to help each other out. Losing doesn’t seem to be as bad when you have a partner!
Math practice can be easily adapted to many existing games you already play by simply adding in the requirement that you must answer a math equation before each turn. This can work easily in any game where two dice are rolled. Another way would be to have your child say a math fact before each move in checkers, chess, tic-tac-toe or any other game that involves turns. You could draw equations from a pile of flashcards or choose from a list. Kids love getting their turn to ask the questions.
UNO or Crazy Eights can be adapted to incorporate math by having your child say the math fact when they play a number on another number. For example, when you play your card you must tell what the total will be of the two numbers before you can play – if a green four was played last and you play a green six, you must say 4 x 6 = 24. Younger children can practice addition. The traditional card game of War can be played with a regular deck of cards where J=11, Q=12 and K=13. Have the winning player say the math fact before they take the trick. Another version more like SNAP would be to have the first person to answer the fact take the trick (some people call this version “Flip Up”). Alternately, you could take turns flipping the cards and having a turn trying the fact. You get the trick if you answer the fact. The winner is the person with the most cards at the end.
Did you know that you can also play war with dominos? My kids discovered this. Deal out the dominos into two piles. Play the dominos just as you would play a card using the total of both numbers on the domino. Multiply the two played totals to win the turn. Using dominos this way force the players to both add and multiply. The regular game of Dominos and its many variations can incorporate math facts as well.
Dice are always exciting. Try to find some different colors, shapes and number of sides. You can do math with any game that uses dice. Dice War is a fun game where players take turns throwing the dice and finding a math equation that makes up the largest total. Keep track and add up your scores.
Tired of cards? My children’s most favorite math drill was “Munchie Math.” This is truly an effective way to learn a whole set of math facts in only five minutes! Pick out 7- 12 flashcards (or quickly make up your own). Your child can earn one small treat for each fact they get correct (or for finishing the pile). They can keep going through the pile and try again. In a matter of minutes they will memorize all 12 cards. Put the pile aside and review these facts for several days to put them in long-term memory. My kids beg to play this game every day. It’s amazing what can be learned with a small bag of jellybeans! The problem I have now is that they know all their facts. I need to make up some tougher questions -maybe calculus!
Another activity they loved when they were really young is to make up a treasure hunt using flashcards. Just line the flashcards up in a path all the way to some hidden treat. Initially, they were allowed to use their times table chart and addition chart to help them out. When starting, you want to make sure they do not find it too tough and get discouraged. (By the way both “Munchie Math” and a treasure hunt work well for sight-reading words and spelling.)
Be creative and come up with your own way to drill in math facts. One morning my children awoke to math fact post-its all over the entire house from the “Math Fairy.” All day long they kept finding equations and of course kept practicing math. Your children will have fun inventing their own games too!
As you can see there are endless ways to adapt math to your games and play. It does not need to be “drill and kill.” Helping your child to get those facts into long term memory can actually be fun and will improve your own memory skills too. Take some MATHemACTION and start playing games!
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