Math Games are also available in Romanian
Math Games are fun exercises to teach basic math principles. Some of the math games are too advanced for preschool. For this reason, they appear in a separate section.
Additional math activities can be found under Davar Activities, H. Numbers and Numerals.
Introduction to numerals and numbers
Game 1: Count at home
2 buckets of water
3 children working in the yard/garden
Items needed: A coloring sheet or poster with 1 baby, 2 buckets, etc., drawn on it.
Show poster/coloring sheet to the class. Count each item (“1 baby”) and ask the name of the numeral in the mother tongue as well as the national language.
Act out the situations on the poster. Someone plays “1 baby.” “2 buckets” are carried. “3 students” work in the garden. Etc. Repeat the names of the numerals. Make mistakes (particularly in the mother tongue) and have the students correct you.
Variation 1: Have the class make the poster. They think up and draw #1, #2, #3, etc.
Game 2: Take three steps forward
Items needed: room to move around; line on the floor or ground.
Activity (known as “Mother, May I” in America):
All of the students except one stand behind the line. One student is “it” and stands far ahead of the group with his/her back to the rest of the students. He/she may say how many steps the group may take: 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.The students take that many steps forward. The first one to touch the one in the front wins and becomes “it.”
A. Students who take too many steps must go back to the beginning.
B. The student who is “it” might specify the type of step as well as the number of steps. For example: “1 giant step” or “3 baby steps” or “5 jumps” or “4 hops” or even “2 steps backwards.” Students who do not follow the directions must go back to the beginning.
Game 3: How Many Did You Hear?
Needed: Nothing extra.
The students are very quiet. One sits (or stands) in front with his/her eyes closed. The leader points to a student; he quietly walks to stand behind the student whose eyes are closed. Once he’s there, the leader points to another student. This goes on until the desired number of students stands in the line. Then the student with his eyes closed may guess how many stand in the line behind him.
Have the whole class count out loud. Did the student hear correctly?
Game 4: Run Like Crazy
Needed: 8 large pieces of paper with a different number of dots, 1-8, drawn on each one.
As a class, carefully look at each piece of paper. Then lay them on the floor in different places in the classroom. The students all stand in one place, far away from the drawings. At the signal (a whistle), the children all run to the drawings. They stand in a row by each drawing.
There needs to be as many children in each row as there are dots on the drawing. If there are already too many children by one drawing, the rest run to other drawings. Once the row for a particular drawing is complete, the children in that row sit on the ground. Count the children around each drawing. Is it correct?
Once the students have practiced the game, it can be played with two teams. Have two series of drawings and two groups of children. Which group finishes first?
Numbers, Numerals, and Amounts
Game 5: How Many Fit?
Circles on the floor or ground (hula hoops or circles taped on the floor with masking tape).
Board, 5 large pieces of paper with one numeral (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) written on each one
OR write the numbers in circles on a sidewalk outside with chalk
OR write the numbers with masking tape on the floor inside.
Write a numeral on the board. Draw the correct number of dots after it. Discuss this with the students.
Put the circles on the ground or floor.
At the agreed-upon signal (such as a whistle), the students stand on each paper or in the circles. The number of students in each group must be the same as the number written on the board.
Check if this is correct. Praise the students for correct groupings.
Variation: If there are less than 15 students in the group, have the students lay the correct number of markers (buttons, stones, bottle caps . . .) on each piece of paper instead of standing on the papers.
Game 6: Find Your Number
Slips of paper with numerals written on them. Make only one with #1 on it; make two with #2 on them; three with #3 on them; four with #4 written on them; five with #5 written on them.
Mix up the slips of paper. Give each student a slip of paper. At the agreed upon signal, the students must find all the other students with the same number written on their paper.
After they have done this, count the number of students in each group. Does it correspond with the number written on their slips of paper? If not, why not? (there weren’t enough students; someone was confused; one #4 was not taken . . .)
Repeat as often as desired.
With a very small group, give out all the slips of paper. Instead of having the students group themselves, have them lay the slips of paper out in the correct order, #1-5.
Game 7: See Your Favorite Number
Many cultures have a favored number. For example, in Western Europe “3” is favored. In traditional stories characters are granted 3 wishes, 3 brothers (not 4 or 5) try to woo the princess, 3 fairy godmothers give good gifts . . . People tend to list things in 3’s and even have 3 meals per day. In many Native American cultures, however, “4” is favored, after the 4 points of the compass. Things in legends and traditional stories occur in 4’s rather than 3’s. People are often not consciously aware of their favored number, but using it might make lessons more interesting or acceptable.
Posters or chalk board with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 dots drawn on them; piece of paper for each student; something for them to draw with.
Set the drawings of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 dots in front of the class.
Ask students to stand in front of the number they like the best. Count how many students are in each row. The number with the longest row wins. Each student takes home a paper with the number of dots (or crosses or X’s or whatever) which has won.
Game 8: Hear your favorite number
Needed: traditional storyteller or story from students’ culture; papers or cards for each student with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 written on them. Additionally might also have sheet of paper for each student and something to write with.
Traditional storyteller tells story in the students’ mother tongue. Each time a number is used in the story, the students hold up a card with that number on it. Note which number occurs most often.
Have a student re-tell the story in the national language. The other students help count. How many brothers/sisters/witches/fishermen were there? How many times did the donkey take the wrong path? How many wishes did the peasant get? How many beans were in the bag? How many magic items did Jack steal from the giant?
If desired, have students draw features from the story with the corresponding numeral written on the paper. 7 swans. 3 magic beans. 3 clergymen (a rabbi, a priest, and a Baptist preacher were sitting in a row boat . . .).
Games using 3 as the favorite number
It is possible to use the same games with another number—whichever one has “won” in Game 3 above, or whichever one you want to focus on.
Game 9: Tag trio
Needed: space to run around.
One student stands in front: Number 1.
Another student holds his/her hand: Number 2
Ask the class, how can we make 3 from this? Yes, another student will hold his/her other hand: Number 3
These 3 students are “it.” The other students run from one side of the play area to the other. The 3 students try to tag them. The 3 must keep holding hands for the “tag” to count. Once all the students have been tagged, another 3 are chosen to be “it.”
Game 10: Triangle Dance (similar to “Musical Chairs”)
Room to dance.
Source of music (tape? CD? Radio?).
Way to draw a large triangle on the ground or on the floor, perhaps with masking tape (on the floor) or chalk (on pavement) or a line in the dirt (ground).
- Draw or make a large triangle.
- One student stands in each corner of the triangle.
- How many students are in the triangle?
- Count them out loud.
([You may wish to write the numeral 3 in the center of the triangle.]
- As the music plays, the other students walk around the triangle.
- When the music stops, each student in the triangle pulls one other student into the triangle.
- There are now 6 students inside.
- Have the class count them. Change the written number to 6.
[You may wish to write 3 + 3 = 6 (or 3×2=6).]
- Continue until all the students are inside the triangle.
- Count after each time the music stops.
Variation: repeat with other shapes such as a square (4 students inside), a pentagon, or a hexagon.
Game 11: Twister by Number (challenging!)
Needed: chair for each student; room to move.
Activity: Touch the ground in three places (check first that it is culturally appropriate to touch the ground. If not, choose another object like the wall or a chair or . . .).
1 student must touch the ground in 3 places. For example, hand, foot, head OR 2 feet, one hand. Let the students be creative. Then all the students touch the ground in the same 3 ways.
2 students together must touch the ground in only 3 places (3 feet?). All the students pair up and touch the ground in the same 3 ways. 3 students . . .
3 students with a chair may only touch the floor in 3 places (one on the chair & the other 3 with one foot on the ground?). All the students get in groups of 4 and do the same.
4 students with a chair may only touch the floor in 3 places (2 on the chair & the other 3 on one leg?). The other students get in groups of 5 and do the same.
Play the game with a different number. 1 student must touch the floor in 4 ways. Then 2 students together must touch the floor in only 4 ways, etc., etc.
Game 12: Three and a Chair
Needed: Three students and one chair; one chair for each group of 3 students.
Activity: Give an instruction; students follow it. For example:
- 1 student be in front of the chair; 1 behind the chair; 1 under the chair
- 1 student on the chair; 2 others touch the chair
- 3 students hold onto the chair with just 1 hand
- 3 students touch the chair with 2 feet
- 2 on either side of the chair; 1 behind the chair
Do it once with a group of 3 students as an example. Then divide the students into groups of three, making sure each group has one chair. Give the directions quickly and have one student make sure that the directions are correctly followed by all the others.
Play the game using different numbers of students. 2 students and one chair. 4 students and one chair.
Have a student give the directions.
Use something other than a chair. A table? A box?
Add and Subtract
Game 13: Jump in the Stream or Wet and Dry
Something to make a stream (large drawing? Long piece of blue cloth? Two ropes laid on the ground to represent the two banks of the stream?)
Something to represent two stones or two water lilies in the water (actual flat stones? Drawings? Pieces of cloth or paper?)
Have 5 children stand on one side of the stream. They jump into the stream. Two can stand on the stones/water lily leaves. So of the 5 children, 3 are wet and 2 are dry.
Write: 3 + 2 = 5
Do the same with different sums.
Variation: Give the children a sum; let them act it out themselves.
Game 14: Painted Fingers
Needed: Sheet of paper for each student; pencils/pens; crayons, colored pencils, markers or paint.
Each student traces around one hand.
Count the fingers (5)
Draw the fingernails on the fingers.
Count the fingernails (5)
Tell the students to pretend they have been painting and have gotten their fingers all covered in paint.
Have them paint 2 fingers red. 2
Have them paint 3 fingers blue. 3
Write the sum on the board. 2 + 3 = 5
Do the same with 4 + 1 = 5, etc.
Game 15: Hide and Subtract
Needed: Good hiding places.
5 children stand in front of the group.
The rest of the children close their eyes and count to 20.
Two of the 5 children hide. When the rest of the children open their eyes, these two are gone.
Count the children who are left.
Write on the board: 5 – 2 = 3.
Do the same with other numbers. 5 – 3 = 2; 6 – 1 = 5; etc.
Game 16: The Caterpillar
A small box or something light like a small box.
Four students stand in front of the group. Discuss how many there will be in total if each student gets a partner.
Choose 4 more students and let them stand.
Count all those standing.
Write up the board (or other prominent place) 4 x 2 = 8.
Have the students who are standing pair up. Each pair joins both hands. The pairs make a row with their hands in the middle. Lay a box (or other large, light object like a stuffed animal or large ball) on the first two hands. The students must pass the box down the row without letting go of each other’s hands.
When the box reaches the end of the row, begin the game again with different students and a different sum.
Start with #2 rather than #4.
Game 17: Just the Same?
Needed: Have two large circles on the ground (made with chalk or tape; or some big round thing like hula hoops).
Activity: One student stands in front of a circle with his/her eyes closed and their back to the group. Now it needs to be very, very quiet.
The leader chooses a certain number of students who go stand in the circle as quietly as possible. The student with his/her eyes closed listens carefully. Then he tells how many he heard.
The number of students that he says go stand in the other circle. Then he turns around, and the whole class looks at the two circles. Are there the same number of people in each circle? Write the sum on the board: 3×2=6, 4×2=8
Variation: Have three circles. Practice the multiplication table x 3.
Game 18: Darts without Darts
Needed: Bottle caps, buttons, or some other small item for each student.
Draw three circles on the ground, one inside the other.
In the center, write “x10” (or x 3)
In the next circle, write “x5” (or x2)
In the outer circle, nothing (or x1).
One by one the students may throw their bottle cap or button into the target.
Once all the students are finished, count the points.
A lid/button in the center gets more points than one in the outside circle.
How many points did we make?
Divide the students into two teams. Have one team go, then count their points. Have the other team go, then count their points.
Which team has more points?
OR Each team has a different color or type of bottle cap (button). Have all the students throw their bottle cap onto the target.
Then count the points each team has earned.
Game 19: Eat Times Two
A set of 10 cups, bowls, or other small containers with a paper under each one.
A lot of small things to eat (for example, peanuts, raisins, grapes, berries, small crackers, pretzels, or—if absolutely necessary—candy.)
Have one or two children help set the 10 cups or bowls in one long row.
- Count the cups out loud. Then put two small things in each cup (children may help do this).
- Now count the number of nuts (or raisins). How many do we have by cup number 1? 2. Write “2” on the paper by this cup.
- Count how many are in cup 1 AND 2. 4. Write “4” on the paper by the second cup.
- Continue like this down the entire row.
- The children write 2, 4, 6, 8, etc., on their own pieces of paper.
- When you have done cup 10, the children may divide the things evenly (fairly)and eat.
- Write the whole sum on the board: 1 x 2 = 2; 2 x 2 = 4; 3 x 2 = 6, etc.
- Anyone who can say the whole row of 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20 from memory gets a medal or certificate.
Variation: May do the same exercise with other multiplication tables (x 3; x 4; etc.)
Game 20: Bugs
Needed: Sheet of
paper for each child with 10 big circles on it with a different sum from the multiplication table for 2 under each circle (1 x 2; 2 x 2; 3 x 2; etc.). Pencils.
Each child gets a piece of paper with 10 big circles on it.
In each circle, they draw as many little bugs as the answer to the sum.
May also do this for multiplication by 3, 4, or possibly even 5.
created by Marleen Schonthaler 2014
illustrated by Ellen Holmes
edited, with English translation by M. van Rheenen