I’m always looking for ways to encourage enthusiasm and improve engagement in my math classroom, and one way I’ve found to be very successful is by playing math games. This strategy works well for just about every style of learner: visual learners see the answers, auditory learners hear the answers, and the kinesthetic learners get to move around.  Also, a little friendly competition is highly motivating for the 11-14 year old crowd

Here is a list of a few games we’ve played that have worked for my scholars:

  1. Football Helmet Chance: We play this as a review game before tests, but you could use it to go over a worksheet instead. The students break into two teams and all get out their reviews. I have football helmet cut-outs with different points and directions on the back that I stick on the board magnetically. Possibilities include 2,000 pts, double your team’s score, double the other team’s score, bankrupt, etc. I call out a number that corresponds with a number on their review, and they confer with each other to determine the answer. If there’s disagreement about the answer, they have about 30 seconds to a minute to convince their teammates, and I choose one person to answer at random. The teams take turns and can steal just like jeopardy.
  2. Bingo: I make a worksheet over whatever concept we’re practicing, for example, solving one-step equations. I print a Bingo card separately with the answers scrambled in a box below and ask them to fill in their cards randomly. I call out a problem and they solve it and cross it out on their bingo card. I like this game because the fast scholars can work ahead, and the slower scholars can keep working and don’t get lost.
  3. Math War: I use this game to practice ordering numbers. I make up flashcards with rational numbers in different formats (decimal, fraction, percent), and they play using the same rules as the card game “war” with a partner. I usually let them play about 15 minutes.
  4. Trashketball: The students LOVE this but it’s such a big waste of paper that I don’t think I’ll play it again. They break into teams and compete to finish different worksheets on a topic. They must bring me the worksheet to grade, if they get them all correct, they get to wad their worksheet into a ball and toss it in the trashcan. If not correct, they have to figure out which question they missed and fixed it, then get to shoot.

The next game I’m looking forward to trying is Math Battleship. Scholars will pair up and each get a different worksheet on the topic we’re covering. Their partner will have their answer sheet. They will take turns doing problems and then checking with the partner. If correct, they will get to make a guess on their opponent’s battleship. If incorrect, they try again on their next turn.

Games are a quick, easy way to incorporate fun into the classroom while reinforcing the lesson. I ultimately want my scholars to have a positive and confident relationship with math. At the level I teach, they are still learning the basics. I want them to understand that even if they don’t know the answer right away, they have the tools to be able to figure it out. 

Blog post by Alexis Copper, a Math Teacher at Heritage Academy Laveen