Learn about fun and simple math games for kids in school and at home.
I am a huge game nut! As a child I spent countless hours playing board games and card games with my family. At the time, I thought it was just a great way to pass the time. As soon as we declared we were “bored” my mom was ready with a new list of chores. Turns out that 3 hour game of Monopoly wasn’t so bad after all!
Little did I know that while I was playing games, I was actually learning math skills (and problem solving skills) at the same time. That’s why, as a teacher, I love using games in my classroom, especially during math time. It’s a great way to practice math skills without realizing that you are learning.
So, what are some simple games for kids to play in the classroom (or at home) to reinforce math skills? Here are a few cheap and easy math games with cards and dice – complete with variations to practice additional skills.
Math Games with Playing Cards
The first several games can be played with a simple deck of playing cards.
Go Fish is the classic card matching game where you deal out 5-7 cards per player, then place the rest of the cards in a “lake” or “ocean.” Players take turns asking for cards or being told to “go fish” until all the cards have been matched.
Math Skills Involved: The traditional Go Fish game uses a deck of cards, so kids can practice recognizing numbers to 10 with this math game.
- You can easily vary the rules of Go Fish to practice addition. For instance, players can match two numbers that add up to 10 (ex: 5 and 5, or 7 and 3) instead of matching pairs.
- You can also make your own cards with index cards to practice larger numbers, letters, words, states & capitals, or anything that can be matched in a game format.
Memory is a classic matching game where several pairs of cards are placed face down on a table (in mixed up order). Players turn over two cards at a time, looking for matches. It is best to use only part of a deck of cards to keep the game manageable. You’ll need to sort out pairs before playing.
Math Skills Involved: Besides working to strengthen short-term memory, players can practice number recognition as well.
- Make the game more (or less) challenging by using more (or fewer) cards. Twelve cards (6 pairs) is a good starting point for younger children.
- Players find numbers that add up to 10, instead of finding matching pairs.
- Make your own game with index cards. You can match math facts with answers, shapes, or numbers with number words.
War is another classic game – and it’s easy to adapt it to create fun and simple math games for kids of any age (check out the variations below).
Players each have a deck of cards (or split a deck of cards evenly.) They stack their cards face down, then each player turns over one cards at a time. The player with the largest number gets both cards. If there is a tie, players each adds two more cards (one face down and one face up.) The player with the largest number on the new cards gets all 6 cards.
Math Skills Involved: This is a great game for comparing numbers.
- Turn over two cards at at time and add the numbers. Compare the sum (total) to decide who gets the cards.
- Turn over two cards and create a subtraction (or multiplication) problem. The player with the larger answer gets the cards.
- Turn over two cards and place them side by side to create a two-digit number (if you turn over 4 and 8, you could make 84). The player who created the largest number gets the cards.
- Use dominoes instead of cards. Each player turns over a domino and counts the total number of dots. The player with the largest total gets both dominoes. Don’t have dominoes? Check out this printable version of Domino War.
- My store contains several other printable variations on the War game: Ten-Frame War (free), Subitizing War, and Coin War.
Guess The Number
Play this game like Headbanz. The first player chooses a playing card and holds it up to his or her forehead without looking at it. (For younger players, the number can be taped to their back instead.) Player 1 asks yes-no questions about the number, trying to figure out what it is. For example: Is it an even number? Is it more than 10? To make the game competitive, you can limit the number of questions or see how many numbers the player can identify in one minute.
Math Skills Involved: This math game goes beyond simple number recognition and really works on number sense skills. Kids can practice things like odd/even and greater than/less than with this game, based on the clues given or questions asked.
- Use two cards to form a two-digit number or create your own number cards using index cards.
- Practice addition facts with three players. Two players place a card on their forehead and the third player offers clues, such as the sum (answer when adding) of the two numbers. So if the two cards are 4 and 7, the hint might be “They add up to 11.”
Math Games with Dice
If you have some dice laying around your house, your kids can use those to for other fun math-related games .
This is a new twist on the card game War. Instead of using playing cards, players roll two dice and add the dots. The player with the highest number gets a point.
Math Skills Involved: This game allow players to practice subitizing and addition at the same time. (Learn more about subitizing in this post.) If you use tally marks to keep track of the score, they can practice one more math skill while having fun!
- Use three dice to practice adding three numbers at a time.
- Instead of adding the numbers on the dice, multiply them.
This game is another family favorite. I remember when I was first big enough to sit at the table and play “dice” with the grown ups. I didn’t fully understand the strategy at first, but it sure was fun shaking the dice. However, I quickly learned which dice were valuable and the grown ups coached me about when to roll and when to stop.
Farkle is a simple dice game. To play, you need six dice. Players roll the dice and collect 5s, 10s, and groups of matching dice to score points. Although you can get purchase the game with a fancy storage cup, you can also play it with six dice (from any game or collection.) This is one of those simple math games that kids of all ages love!
Math Skills Involved: This game builds a particular number sense skill called “subitizing.” This is the ability to recognize how many are in a group without having to count. Players quickly learn the pattern that represents 5 on the dice.
You keep score on a sheet of paper. Older children can be given the task of score keeping, even for a short part of the game. Points are gained in increments of 50, so it’s not overly complex.
- There are some variations in scoring fancier dice combinations. Otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward game.
You will need to purchase the following games. However, they are typically inexpensive (less than $10) and are highly engaging for family members of all ages.
Games You Can Buy
Bingo isn’t just for grannies. This is one of those games kids and adults can play – while practicing math skills! The traditional Bingo game uses numbers from 1-75, with numbers arranged in columns under the letters B-I-N-G-O.
Math Skills Involved: Bingo is a fun way to practice number recognition to 75. (But several variations can practice other math skills, as well.)
- You can find commercial Bingo games that use numbers to 20, or that practice addition and subtraction facts instead.
- You can play Bingo with a deck of cards (two players can share a deck, but you will also need a deck for the caller.) Lay out the cards in a 4X4 grid, face up. If you have the number called by the caller, turn in face down. You can decide if you want to play for a row of 4 or for black out (matching all cards.)
- Create variations to practice number sense: Instead of just numbers, you can play with ten frames or tally marks.
Skipbo is a commercial card game where players build stacks of numbers from 1-12. The game also includes Wild cards (known as “Skipbo” cards) for added fun. This game has been a family favorite for my extended family for YEARS! In fact, it was one of my grandma’s favorite games, when I was growing up.
Math Skills Involved: Players not only practice number recognition to 12, but they also practice sequencing the numbers to create the stacks.
Sometimes you can find a kids’ version called Skipbo Junior. The overall game is similar, but the rules for the player’s hand are simplified, making it easier for younger children.
This last game is a little more expensive than the others (around $20). But it’s an engaging way of turning flashcards into a game.
This is one of those math games designed clearly for kids to practice addition and subtraction. The game includes cards with addition and subtraction facts and a board with numbers (the sums for the addition facts.) Players solve the addition and subtraction problems to claim spaces on the board. The goal is to claim 5 numbers in a row on the board.
Math Skills Involved: This game practices addition and subtraction facts with numbers up to 30.
- The game manufacturer has several other Sequence games available, but they aren’t specific to math. The variations currently include the standard version, a Kids version (with animal pictures) and a dice version. They have also sold games from time to time that incorporate letters/sounds, scripture verses, and states/capitals.
As you find yourself hanging out at home (whether it’s because of a rainy day, snow storm, or the pandemic), consider playing some of these simple math games with your children. They will be able to practice math skills without even realizing it! Plus, you will be creating fun family memories as you play.
All of these games also work well in a classroom setting. Kids can play in pairs or small groups. Just don’t tell them they are practicing math while they play!
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