Add and Subtract: Games 11-16


Math Games are also available in Romanian ro_ro and in Dutch 

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 Start Games, F: Numbers and Numerals.

Download Math Games

Game 11: Triangle Dance (similar to “Musical Chairs”)1428085637

Room to dance.
Source of music (CD? Radio? Group sings?).
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).


  1. Draw or make a large triangle.
  2. Let one person stand in each corner of the triangle.
  3. Ask the others: How many people are in the triangle?
  4. Count them out loud.
    (You may wish to write the numeral 3 in the center of the triangle.)
  5. Let the music play, meanwhile the other people walk or dance around the triangle.
  6. When the music stops, each person in the triangle pulls one other person into the triangle.
  7. There are now 6 people inside.
  8. Have the group count them. Change the written number to 6.
    (You may wish to write 3 + 3 = 6 or 3 × 2 = 6.)
  9. Continue until all the people are inside the triangle.
  10. Count after each time the music stops.

Variation 1: Repeat with other shapes such as a square, a pentagon, or a hexagon (with 4, 5 or 6 people inside).

Variation 2: Have the three in the triangle tag or touch another person. That person has to switch places. The ones who come out (or the ones who go in) have to do something three times such as jumping up and down, shouting, squatting and getting up, touching their toes . . ..

Variation 3: Give each person 5 items to begin with (for instance, different colored slips of paper, lids from plastic bottles, feathers, leaves). The ones walking around the triangle hold their items where everyone can see them. If they are tagged, they must put one item in the triangle. Have the group count the number of items in the triangle after each round. Decide ahead of time when the game is over – when the first person has lost all their items? When the last person has lost all their items?

If using small pieces of fruit or crackers, make sure everyone gets to eat them when the game is over.

Game 12: Twister by Number (challenging!)

Needed: A chair for each person; room to move.


  1. Touch the ground in three places (check first whether it is culturally appropriate to touch the ground. If not, choose something else like the wall or a chair or…).
  2. One person must touch the ground in 3 ways. For example, hand, foot, head OR 2 feet, one hand. Let the player be creative. Then everyone touches the ground in the same 3 ways.
  3. Two people together must touch the ground in only 3 ways (3 feet?). Let everyone pair up and let each pair touch the ground in the same 3 ways. 
  4. Three people with a chair may only personally touch the ground in 3 ways. One sits on the chair (and doesn’t touch the ground), one touches the ground with both feet and the other touches the ground with one foot. Everyone gets into groups of 3 and does the same.
  5. Four people with a chair may only touch the ground in 3 places. For example, 1 sits on the chair and doesn’t touch the ground, the other 3 each touch the floor with one foot. Everyone gets in groups of 4 and does the same.

Play the game with a different number. 1 person must touch the floor in 4 ways. Then 2 people together must touch the floor in only 4 ways, etc., etc.

Game 13: Three and a Chair9069027

Needed: Three people and one chair; one chair for each group of 3 people.


Give an instruction; each group of three follows it. For example:

  • 1 person be in front of the chair; 1 behind the chair; 1 under the chair;
  • 1 person on the chair; 2 others touch the chair;
  • 3 people hold onto the chair with just 1 hand;
  • 3 people 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 people as an example. Then have the whole group divide into smaller groups of three. Make sure each group has one chair. Give the directions quickly and have one person from the whole group make sure that the directions are correctly followed by all the smaller groups of three.

Variation 1: Play the game using different numbers: 2 people and one chair or 4 people and one chair.

Variation 2: Have someone else give the directions.

Variation 3: Use something other than a chair. A table? A box?

Game 14: Jump Over the Stream or Wet and Dry958020


  • Something to represent a stream (large drawing or long piece of blue cloth or two ropes laid on the ground to represent the two banks of the stream or two lines drawn in the dirt or…).
  • Board and a piece of chalk, or large piece of paper and a pencil.


  • Have five people stand on one side of the stream. Explain that some will have to jump into the stream and others over it.
  • Tap the ones that are supposed to jump into the stream on the shoulder. Tap the ones that have to jump over the stream on the back. At the agreed-upon signal, they all jump. The group yells out “Splash!” when some of them land in the water.
  • Let everyone in the group count how many are still dry, for instance: 5 were dry. 2 fell in the water. Now only 3 are dry. Write on the board or paper: 5 – 2 = 3.
  • Repeat the game with the 3 who are dry. How many landed in the water this time? For instance: 2. Write on the board or paper: 3 – 2 = 1.
    You can do the same with other group members and/or different sums.

Variation: Instead of acting out the equation and then writing it down, give the group an equation and then have them act it out for themselves.

Game 15: Painted Fingers1428078317

Needed: A sheet of paper for each person; pencils/pens; crayons, colored pencils, markers or paint; board.


  • Each person traces around one hand.
  • Count the fingers (5).
  • Draw the fingernails on the fingers.
  • Count the fingernails (5).
  • Tell the everyone 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 16: Hide and Subtract1082408

Needed: Good hiding places.


  1. Five people stand in front of the group.
  2. The rest of the people close their eyes and count to 20.
  3. Two of the five hide. When the rest open their eyes, these two are gone.
  4. Count those who are left.
  5. Write on the board: 5 – 2 = 3.
  6. Let the group look for those who have gone and hid.
  7. Repeat the game with other numbers. 5 – 3 = 2; 6 – 1 = 5; etc.

Variation: May also be played with objects such as stuffed animals (soft toys), nuts, stones, etc.

Created by Marleen Schönthaler 2014
Illustrated by Ellen Holmes
Edited, with English translation by M. van Rheenen and Annelies Barth (Linked-In: Annelies Barth, interpreter & author)