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Using Math Games in Elementary Grades

written by: Elaine Meleti-Gallagher • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 8/29/2014

There are numerous resources available to make learning math successfully more fun. Children in our technological society will embrace using the internet to encourage math practice as well as mastering new concepts.

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    Math Games for Elementary Students Math games can be used for all areas of math teaching. Exposing students to math games on the internet, board games that are pre-made and games they create themselves is beneficial. When you create something, you want to see it succeed, so when children play their “own" math games they will work harder to learn concepts and master the game.

    Below are some lesson/math game ideas by grade level. For each grade level, I have listed a common core standard in Number and Operations strand.

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    Kindergarten

    CCSS: Work with numbers 11-19 to gain foundations for place value.

    In kindergarten, children spend much of the day performing counting activities. It is important for students to know the order of the numbers, as well as what each number looks like in numeral form and in some sort of diagram. For example, both the numeral and a picture of three apples can represent the number 3.

    To reinforce counting, students can count around the room. When introducing the value of 10, you can use actual students to show how when you reach 10 “you create a new column of numbers."

    PrimaryGames.com has games that students can play on Smartboard with a group or as a class. Students can create their own matching game using premade strips of number cards. You can print the cards on card stock and laminate them for students to use in class or take home for practice.

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    First Grade

    CCSS: Count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral.

    In first grade, the goal is for students to count and write/represent numbers up to 120. The teacher can add 10 numbers each week as the year progresses, teaching what each number looks like and how place value comes into play. When you reach 100, students can use the 100 chart to practice. At first, you can give them a complete one, and as time goes on, they can fill in some missing blanks and talk about some patterns they see.

    Students can play a game using the 100 chart with dice and markers. Each child rolls the die, counts that number on the chart and moves their piece. The first one to reach 100 is the winner. The strategy at the end of the game is to roll the right amount to get to 100. PrimaryGames.com and CoolMath.com have many games students can play in groups or as a whole class on the Smartboard. As a take home game, students should be given a 100 chart (on card stock or laminated) to keep at home and use for all math homework as well as using it to play game mentioned above.

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    Second Grade

    CCSS: Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s and 100s. Read and write numbers to 1000 using base-10 numerals, number names and expanded form.

    In second grade, not all students are ready to continue to master numbers higher than 100, so it is important to review 100 completely before going further. You can use the number chart to skip count by 2s, 5s and eventually 10s. At this point, students can use many of the math websites to enhance their skills in addition and subtraction. Some recommended sites are hoodamath.com and BattersUpBaseball game.

    In addition, students can play a math dice game or math war with cards to practice addition facts. Each student rolls dice and adds up numbers (or adds up cards) and records their answer. Whoever has the highest number wins that round. The first student to win 10 rounds wins. This game can be used throughout the year to teach addition into hundreds by using six dice (or cards) to make an addition problem. For example, if you rolled 4, 5, 3, 2, 4 and 4, you would write the equation 453+244=. You can mix it up for levels of students. Some may only be able to add two-digit numbers. This excellent learning tool can be continued into later grades with multiplication.

    This is a perfect grade to introduce students to making their own board games. If you refer to my first article, you will see a day to day breakdown of creating a board game.

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    Third Grade

    CCSS: Multiply one-digit whole numbers by multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 (e.g., 9 × 80, 5 × 60) using strategies based on place value and properties of operations. Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.

    The 100 chart is an excellent tool for reinforcing place value and practicing counting by 10s (multiples of 10). It also helps students round to the nearest 10 by placing a marker on a number and visualizing if number should go up or down to the nearest 10. Rounding is an extremely difficult concept for many students. If they can understand it in the basic 100 chart, it will be much easier to bring it to the next level.

    You can use the dice game above to practice multiplying by multiples of 10. Each time you roll the dice, you multiply by 10. You can use the same procedure of winning 10 rounds to be the winner.

    Students can bring home games learned in class to add to a PlayStation at home. Students can also be encouraged to use ixl.com as part of their homework to review whatever concept is being taught. This website is arranged by grade level and then by concept taught. You do not have to join, as they allow you to do 20 practice problems each day. This site is an excellent test review to do with whole class or small groups. It is interactive and students can solve problems on their whiteboard while one student solves on the smartboard.

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    Fourth Grade

    CCSS: Multiply a whole number of up to four digits by a one-digit whole number, and multiply two two-digit numbers, using strategies based on place value and the properties of operations. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays and/or area models. Find whole-number quotients and remainders with up to four-digit dividends and one-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations and/or the relationship between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays and/or area models.

    In fourth grade, students are scaffolding concepts learned in prior grades as well as preparing for state tests. Using ixl.com is recommended throughout the year. Internet4Classrooms.com/skills breaks down each grade level by learning strand. Within each strand, you can solve problems and play games to enhance skills, as well.

    Learning a game for each concept is especially important now to keep students interested and motivated. Creating their own games is especially useful and challenging to them. With all the test prep in this grade, these activities will enhance learning. Students should be encouraged to keep all their games handy and to use internet games as well to master skills. At this grade level, you will begin to see many well thought out board games to use repeatedly during the school year.

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    Fifth Grade

    CCSS: Add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators (including mixed numbers) by replacing given fractions with equivalent fractions in such a way as to produce an equivalent sum or difference of fractions with like denominators. For example, 2/3 + 5/4 = 8/12 + 15/12 = 23/12. (In general, a/b + c/d = (ad + bc)/bd.) Explain patterns in the number of zeros of the product when multiplying a number by powers of 10, and explain patterns in the placement of the decimal point when a decimal is multiplied or divided by a power of 10. Use whole-number exponents to denote powers of 10.

    By fifth grade, students continue to learn more complicated, higher order thinking math problems. Often in this grade, students are lost once algebra is introduced and more difficult geometry problems are required. Using Internet4Classrooms.com, Learningwithmathgames.com and hoodamath.com provide many fun games to reinforce these skills.

    It may be a good time to use ixl.com daily as a warmup and use mathplayground.com videos to enhance understanding. MathPlayground videos are organized by content strand and make very simple presentations of each skill.

    As students are getting ready for middle school, it is still important to refine their skills and allow them to gain confidence in their mathematical ability. This is a good time to allow students to make math games as an independent study project or a listed free time activity. Students begin to enjoy making games and claiming ownership of their learning.

    The lessons and math games for each grade level are endless. It is important that teachers become familiar with websites that can enhance student learning while keeping their interest high. Teachers show children they are lifelong learners and this type of activity and knowledge encourages them to be as well.

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Math Games for Elementary Students

Get your students engaged with math, from Kindergarten to Grade 5!
  1. Using Math Games in Elementary Grades
  2. Math Game to Enrich Teaching: Create a Math Board Game