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.
Game 17: The Caterpillar
Needed: A small box or something else that is light, like a stuffed animal or a large ball.
- Let 4 people stand in front of the group. Discuss how many there will be in total if each one gets a partner.
- Choose 4 more and let each of them stand in front of the group, too.
- Count together all those standing.
- Write on the board (or other prominent place) 4 x 2 = 8.
- Have those who are standing pair up. Each pair joins both hands. Let the pairs make a row with their hands in the middle; this way they look a bit like a caterpillar. Lay a box (or another large, light object like a stuffed animal or large ball) on the first two hands. They 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 members of the group and a different sum.
For fun, you may want to add a penalty if the box (or ball) falls down. Perhaps everyone in the “caterpillar” has to jump up and down 4x, since the group is multiplying by 4.
Variation 1: Play the game with 2 rather than 4 people.
Variation 2: Play the game with 5, 6 or 7 people.
Game 18: Just the Same?
Needed: Two large circles on the ground (made with chalk or tape; or some big round things like hula hoops); board.
- One person 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 people who go stand in the circle as quietly as possible. The person with his/her eyes closed listens carefully. Then he/she tells how many they heard.
- The number of people that she/he says go stand in the other circle. Then she/he turns around, and the whole group 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 19: Darts without Darts
Needed: Bottle caps, buttons or some other small item for each person. Something to draw circles with on the ground.
- Draw three circles on the ground, one inside the other. In the center, write “x 10” (or “x 3”).
- In the next circle, write “x 5” (or “x 2”).
- In the outer circle, nothing (or “x 1”).
- One by one the people may throw their bottle cap or button into the target.
- Encourage them to aim for the highest score. Once all the people 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?
Variation 1: Divide the group 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?
Variation 2: Each team has a different color or type of bottle cap (button). Everyone on the team throws their bottle cap onto the target. Then count the points each team has earned.
Game 20: Jumping Game
Needed: Space to jump; tape or chalk to make jumping squares in two different colors.
- Prepare ahead of time or together with the group: squares to jump into in one long row. Alternate two different colors of squares. Number the squares from 1-2-3 up to 10 or even 20. Make the color of the numbers match the color of the square. All the odd numbers will be white, for instance, and all the even numbers green.
- Divide the group into two teams. The teams take turns jumping one by one along the row of colors. As each person jumps, they also say the name of the number. Keep score: one point for each team member who does this correctly.
Variation 1: First jump onto each square, counting 1, 2, 3, 4…
Variation 2: Then have the teams take turns skipping every other square, so they jump only on the odd numbers, saying the name of the number out loud (1, 3, 5…).
Variation 3: Next, the teams take turns skipping every other square so that they jump only on the even numbers, again counting out loud (2, 4, 6, 8…).
Variation 4: The team with the most points gets a prize. The prize might be a ‘privilege’ (choosing the next game; being first in line for something…). The prize might also be thinking up a penalty for the other team (they all have to run around in a circle three times, they have to jump up and down making a noise like a frog…).
Note to leader: This may also be drawn in the dirt or outlined with stones. Then use two different shapes instead of two different colors. For instance, circles for odd numbers and squares for even ones.
Game 21: Eat Times Two
Needed: Sheets of paper, one for each group member; pencils or pens. Board and chalk. 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.)
Activity: Have one or two group members help set the 10 cups or bowls in one long row.
- Count the cups out loud, with the participants. Then put two small things in each cup (members of the group 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.
- Everyone writes 2, 4, 6, 8, etc., on their own pieces of paper.
- When you have done cup 10, everyone 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 22: Bugs
Needed: Pencils. Sheet of paper for everyone with 10 big circles on it. Under each circle, write one part of the multiplication table for two: 1 x 2; 2 x 2; 3 x 2; etc.
Hand out the papers with the 10 big circles on them. Explain to the participants that you would like them to draw bugs. In each circle, each person has to draw as many little bugs as the answer to the equation under that circle.
Variation: You may also do this for multiplication by 3, 4 or possibly even 5.
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)