Math Game Ice-Breakers
byJuly 22nd, 2020 All Blog Posts
The first days of school can be challenging in a number of ways. (Math pun intended!) A new school year brings uncertainty for students, especially if the return comes after an unusually long break, coupled with a public health crisis. One of the best ways to shrug off the awkwardness or even resistance and get the math talk flowing is with fun learning activities that kids enjoy.
Math games are especially helpful for encouraging students to converse about math. Dr. Matt Larson, HMH Into Math™ author and Senior Fellow with HMH’s Math Solutions, says, “Students who communicate with their classmates and the teacher about their thinking, solution pathways, and insights into how they solved a problem—or how to analyze another student’s solution—develop a deeper understanding of mathematics.”
“Students who communicate with their classmates and the teacher about their thinking, solution pathways, and insights into how they solved a problem—or how to analyze another student’s solution—develop a deeper understanding of mathematics.”Dr. Matt Larson, Senior Fellow HMH Math Solutions
The following are several games that will get your students talking, whether it’s the beginning of the year or middle of a unit—really, any time! The games are easy to set up, require minimal to no equipment, and kids enjoy them. Students can play them in person or virtually. Grade levels are identified, but each game can easily be adjusted to increase or decrease the knowledge/experience level of any students, so they’re perfect for differentiation.
Math games are a positive way to establish an environment of learning and collaboration, making it easier to transition into more focused instructional time. These games are not only useful as icebreakers, they are also a powerful way to practice different math skills. Games provide practical and immediate application to the concepts being taught and give their players positive feelings about math!
Grades K–2 Compare (Shake and Spill)
In this game, students practice comparing counters with a partner after shaking and spilling a select group of color counters on their workspace. This is the perfect opportunity for little ones to learn how to use and bundle tally marks! This game will also pave the way for writing number sentences, interpreting mathematical word problems, and organizing and interpreting data symbolically.
To increase the challenge in this comparison game, ask students to hypothesize what they believe will be the results prior to starting each round. To increase the difficulty, students can also use or calculate the percentages for each result afterward. If playing virtually, students can replace counters with more readily available coins (heads vs. tails).
Grades 3–4 Target 300 (A Multiplication Game)
In this lesson, students gain experience multiplying by ten and multiples of ten as they make choices about the numbers to use to reach the target amount of three hundred.
To make the game more challenging, introduce larger numbers or numbers that are more complex to multiply. For example, instead of multiples of ten, try multiples of five or seven. To play virtually, create separate online meetings (Zoom, Teams, Webex, etc.) for yourself and a pair or group of students. Take turns “popping in” to guide or check on each team and ask questions along the way. You may also consider dividing the class into teams and you can become the online “game host.”
Grade 5 & up Digit Place (A Secret Number Quest)
This game develops place value knowledge with students in grades K–4, but it can easily be modified for higher grades by using larger numbers. To make it more appealing to middle or high school students, incorporate tenths and hundredths and make it a “guess the price” game using items like a car or a smartphone. For a rich mathematical discussion with older students about logic and algebra, follow the game up by playing the board game Mastermind (either in-person or online) and having students discuss similarities and differences between the games.
To play the game virtually, display your screen and act as “game show host” while students work in teams. They can use chat to discuss their thoughts with each other, then send answers to you.
Games featured appear in Math Games for Number and Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Grades K–5 by Jamee Petersen. © 2013 by HMH. All rights reserved. www.mathsolutions.com