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.
Game 1: 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 everyone a slip of paper. At the agreed upon signal, each person must find all the others with the same number written on their paper.
- After they have done this, count how many of each number there are. Does it correspond with the number written on their slips of paper? If not, why not? (there weren’t enough people; someone was confused; one #4 was not taken . . ..)
Repeat as often as desired.
Variation: With a very small group, give out all the slips of paper. Instead of having everyone group themselves, have them lay the slips of paper out in the correct order, #1-5.
Game 2: Count at Home
Needed: A coloring sheet or poster with 1 baby, 2 buckets, 3 children working in the yard/garden, 4 friends, 5 sticks, etc. drawn on it.
Show the poster/coloring sheet to the group. 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 people” work in the garden, etc. Repeat the names of the numerals. Make mistakes (particularly in the mother tongue) and have the other group members correct you.
Variation 2: Have the group make the poster. Let them think up and draw #1, #2, #3, etc.
Game 3: Take Three Steps Forward
Needed: Room to move around; line on the floor or ground.
Activity (known as “Mother, May I” in America):
- Everyone except one person stands behind the line. This person is “it” and stands far ahead of the group with his/her back to the rest of the group.
- He/she may say how many steps the group may take: 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. The others take that many steps forward.
- The first one to touch the one in the front wins and becomes “it”.
Variation 1: Those who take too many steps must go back to the beginning.
Variation 2: The person who is “it” may specify the type of step as well as the number of steps. For example: “1 giant step”, “3 baby steps”, “5 jumps”, “4 hops” or even “2 steps backwards”. Those who do not follow the directions must go back to the beginning.
Game 4: How Many Did You Hear?
Skills practiced: Listening and concentration; staying quiet; taking turns; counting.
Needed: Nothing extra.
- The group is very quiet. One person sits (or stands) in front with his/her eyes closed. The leader points to a different person who quietly walks to stand behind the one whose eyes are closed. Once he or she is there, the leader points to another person who has to do the same.
- The person with their eyes closed has to listen carefully to find out how many people are lining up behind him. This goes on until the desired number of people stands in the line. Then the one with his eyes closed may guess how many stand in the line behind him.
- Have the whole group count out loud. Did the one in front hear correctly?
More challenging version: Write the numbers on the board or on different pieces of paper. Instead of saying how many are behind him or her, the person with their eyes closed goes forward to pick the right number written on one of the cards. If he picks the right number, he receives a reward or a point. This can also be played as a competition between two teams.
Game 5: Run Like Crazy
Needed: Eight large pieces of paper with a different number of dots, 1-8, drawn on each one. COMMENT: This game is easier if the total number of dots equals the number of participants. For instance, if there are eight participants, use three pieces of paper, one with one dot, one with three and one with four.
- Let the group carefully look at each piece of paper. Then lay the papers on the floor in different places in the classroom. Everybody stands in one place, far away from the drawings. At the signal (e.g. a whistle), everyone runs to a drawing of their choice. There they need to stand in a row.
- There need to be as many people in each row as there are dots on the drawing. If there are already too many people by one drawing, the rest have to run to other drawings. Once the row for a particular drawing is complete, the ones in that row sit on the ground. Let them count the people around each drawing. Is it correct?
- Once the group has practiced the game, it can be played with two teams. Use two series of drawings and divide the group into two teams. Which team finishes first?
Numbers, Numerals and Amounts
Game 6: How Many Fit?
Needed: Circles on the floor or ground (e.g. hula hoops or circles taped on the floor with masking tape). A board, five large pieces of paper with one numeral (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) written on each one
OR the numbers written in circles on a sidewalk outside with chalk OR the numbers written with masking tape on the floor inside.
- Write a numeral on the board. Draw the correct number of dots after it. Discuss this so the participants understand the link between the numeral and the number of dots.
- Put the circles on the ground or floor.
- At the agreed-upon signal (e.g. a whistle), everyone goes to stand in one of the circles. The number in each group must be the same as the number written on the board.
- Check if this is correct. Give praise for correct groupings.
Variation: If there are less than fifteen people in the whole group, have them lay the correct number of markers (buttons, stones, bottle caps…) in each circle instead of standing in the circles.
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, the princess is given 3 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, depending on the people’s cultural background. For instance, in Western Europe people may pay more attention or remember things more easily if you use examples involving the number 3 rather than 4 or 5.
Needed: Posters or chalk board with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 dots drawn on them; piece of paper for each person; something for them to draw with.
Activity: Set the drawings of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 dots in front of the group. Ask people to stand in front of the number they like the best. Count how many are in each row. The number with the longest row wins. Each person 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: A traditional storyteller or story from the participants’ local culture; papers or cards for each person with 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 written on them (or more, if higher numbers occur in the story). Each person might also need something to write with.
- The traditional storyteller tells a story in the mother tongue. Each time a number is used in the story, those listening hold up a card with that number on it. Note which number occurs most often.
- Have one of the listeners re-tell the story in the national language. This time too, the others have to pay attention to the numbers occurring in the story and help count.
- How many brothers/sisters/birds/fishermen were there? How many times did the donkey take the wrong path? How many beans were in the bag?
If you wish, have the listeners draw features from the story with the corresponding numeral written on the paper: 7 swans, 4 bears, 3 flowers.
Game 9: Draw Your Favorite Number
Needed: A piece of paper for each person and something to write with.
- Have each person practice writing their favorite number. Together, find as many similarities between the shape of the numeral and things in their everyday life. For example, 1 looks like a stick; 8 like a pretzel they just ate . . . whatever they can imagine.
- Then have each person make a drawing next to the numeral of something that looks like or reminds them of the numeral. For example: 2 with a swan, a goose or a giraffe. They might also turn the number into a drawing (for instance, “9” is a girl with long curly hair . . .).
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 10: Tag Trio
Needed: Space to run around.
- One person stands in front: Number 1.
Someone else holds his/her hand: Number 2.
- Ask the group, how can we make 3 from this? Yes, another person will hold his/her other hand: Number 3.
These three are “it”.
- Everyone else runs from one side of the play area to the other. The three holding hands try to tag them. The three must keep holding hands for the “tag” to count.
- Once everyone has been tagged, another three are chosen to be “it”.
Note: It is possible to do the same game with another number – a “culturally significant number” or whichever one you want to focus on.
Game 11: Triangle Dance (similar to “Musical Chairs”)
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).
- Draw or make a large triangle.
- Let one person stand in each corner of the triangle.
- Ask the others: How many people are in the triangle?
- Count them out loud.
(You may wish to write the numeral 3 in the center of the triangle.)
- Let the music play, meanwhile the other people walk or dance around the triangle.
- When the music stops, each person in the triangle pulls one other person into the triangle.
- There are now 6 people inside.
- Have the group count them. Change the written number to 6.
(You may wish to write 3 + 3 = 6 or 3 × 2 = 6.)
- Continue until all the people are inside the triangle.
- 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.