Math Games

I apologize for waiting so long to write another post! I have just been so busy wrapping up everything before Spring Break and then exhausted from all the hard work!

So, onto the good stuff! Our district's math coordinator came to talk to us yesterday about using math games to enhance student learning in the classroom. I learned some really great games for all grade levels, so those of you kindergarten and first grade teachers can actually use something from me!

1. Roll and Write (K-2)
Materials: 2 dice or number cubes, pencil/paper
  • Player(s) roll two number cubes.
  • Write two number sentences using the numbers rolled. (For kindergarten, have them verbalize the number sentence.)
  • Circle the number you counted on from.
  • Explain why you counted on from the number you did. (Students should start to catch on that you count on from the larger number.
2. Shake and Spill (K-2)
Materials: 1 cup or a pair of cups, 1 set of two-colored counters or a pair, 2 colored markers (1 red/1 yellow), paper
  • Students divide their paper to look like a large tic-tac-toe grid.
  • Assign different combination target numbers to each pair, depending on what they can handle. For example, you might want some children to work on combinations of five counters while others are working on combinations of 10.
  • Encourage students to predict what they think they'll see when they shake and spill the counters.
  • Have the children begin their shaking and spilling. They record the number of red counters face up and the number of yellow counters that are face up and write it as a number sentence across the top of the tic-tac-toe grid. For example (7 yellow + 3 red = 10 counters)
Race for a Dollar (1-3)
Materials: no more than 30 pennies, 5-6 dimes and nickels, a few quarters, 1 dollar bill, 1 pair of dice
  • Player 1 rolls the 2 dice, finds the sum of the two numbers, and takes the corresponding amount of money in coins of his/her choice.
  • Player 1 decideds if he/she wants to make any trades and then passes the dice to player 2, who repeats the steps.
  • The first person to get coins worth $1.00 wins.
  • You and your students can decide on the rule for ending the game. Possibilities include requiring a roll that gives the winner exactly $1.00 or a roll that gives $1.00 or more.
Spill the Beans (2-3)
Materials: gameboard, 1 cup, 2 beans, paper, pencil
  • Put the two beans in a cup.
  • The first player spills the beans onto the game board.
  • The player adds the numbers the beans landed on. If a bean lands on a line, it can be thrown again.
  • The player subtracts the answer from 50 using scratch paper if needed. For your challenge students, make them use mental math. (For example: The player spills the beans onto a 5 and a 2. The player says the sum is 7 and then subtracts that number from 50. 5-7=43.
  • After each player spills the beans, his or her answer is subtracted from their last number on the score sheet.
  • Players take turns spilling beans and subtracting until one player reaches zero.
  • Variations: Play with 100 point spill the beans. Begin the game by subtracting from 100. Or how about a 3-bean game? Throw 3 beans and add the numbers together, then subtract from 100.
Digit Game (K)
Materials: number cards 0-9, 2 of each
  • One player shuffles the deck and places it with the numbers face down on the playing surface between the players.
  • Each player draws 2 cards from the deck and uses them to make the largest number possible.
  • The player who makes the larger number takes all the cards.
  • The game is over when all of the cards have been used.
  • The player with more cards wins.
  • Variation: Players try to make the smallest number possible each time. The player who makes the greater number takes all of the cards. The player with fewer cards at the end wins.
What games do you use in your classrooms to enhance math?

Pebble Jars

After the middle of the school year, the novelty of some of my class reward systems began to wear off a bit and so I decided to come up with something new and fun. I visited a first grade teachers class one day and discovered this cute classroom management idea that I have now implemented into my classroom.

First, you need to have students in groups in order to do this. It is really helpful for encouraging kids to work together, stay on task, and move quickly during transition time. You can name your groups, number them, whatever...I gave mine colors. Each group should have their own jar or small container. You need to purchase the "pebbles" to fill the jars as well. I bought some decently sized glass beads that you often see in vases. You can use whatever you choose, i.e. marbles, clear plastic fish tank pieces, etc...

You will also want to make sure you somehow display how many pebbles each group has earned so they don't relentlessly ask you, "How many pebbles do we have now??" I got lucky and found some cube shaped jars with chalkboard paint on them so I can just write the number they have. The teacher I borrowed this from had hooks hanging above each jar. On the hooks were index cards on rings. The index cards had numbers on them so she could just flip that groups number to the right amount of pebbles for the kingdom of the classroom to see! I also thought of making a bar or pictograph of each group to keep track of how many pebbles have been earned.

When you see a group doing a nice job, give their jar a little love by adding a pebble. You will want to make a poster or chart of rewards so the kids know what they are working towards. When a group reaches 5 pebbles, decide on a treat. I have a plastic three drawer thing (not sure what to call it) and each drawer is a different increment. The first drawer is the 5 drawer which I have filled with a multitude of candies. The 10 drawer is filled with small knick knacks and trinkets like pencils, erasers, post its and pads. The 15 drawer is filled with larger trinkets and toys such as koosh balls and other fairly inexpensive toys from the dollar store!

After 15, I moved on to different rewards like Homework passes for 2o, lunch with your favorite person for _______, extra recess for _______, and McDonald's lunch for _______. You can choose you own rewards. These are just examples.

This has been really nice for my room! It allows each group to have the chance to earn rewards. Though some groups will take longer than others (because you know, they have special friends), eventually/hopefully they will all reach the top. After you reach your highest level, just start over again!

The only bad thing about this is that you may want to move a students seat or multiple student's seats and it kind of stinks to have to move someone/them from a group with a certain number of points already earned. But, I guess you could argue they have to suffer the consequences of their actions!

What classroom management/reward systems do you use in your classrooms? What are some ideas you have heard of to motivate students?


I've been trying to plan a unit on fractions today and I scoured the internet looking for songs or chants to help teach my students how to remember what a fraction is, but to no avail.

So, I wrote my own song to the tune of "Three Blind Mice"


Fractions are fun.
Fractions are fun.

Many parts of one.
Many parts of one.

The numerator's the top one.
The denominator's on bottom.

Fractions are fun.
Fractions are fun.

Do you guys know any other cute chants, songs, or ideas to help teach fractions? This tends to be a very difficult concept for children to grasp so any and all advice is welcome!

Inferencing and Drawing Conclusions

Inferencing is a very important skill that good readers use as they are reading. Inferencing has a lot to do with reading between the lines and picking up on feelings or thoughts that the author doesn't directly state. This can be very difficult for some students, especially if they are struggling readers. And I have plenty of those in my room with our Hispanic population at almost 50%. 

Here are some strategies to help teach this very important skill to your students. One thing I do when introducing inferencing is show photographs. I like to use old photos from the early 1900's because the kids can learn a lot about the time period at the same time! Have them look at the photo and guide students in making a list of observations. (This is very important!) For example: a tree, children, a train, etc. You want to make sure you are only listing things you see, not what you think is happening in the picture. We'll get to that part!

After you list everything you see in the photo, ask students to use what they see to help them infer what they think is happening in the picture or what the people are feeling. Spend a few minutes inferring a couple of different ideas from the picture. You may need to model this with several pictures. My students get confused sometimes between the observations and the inferences. I have to remind them that walking or talking are inferences because they are things they think the people are doing.

Once students understand how to infer with photos, you can take it to the next level. Show students several statements and guide them in making inferences. For example, During John's math test, he kept staring around the room and tapping his pencil on the desk. He hadn't filled in any answers. What can you infer about John? Guide students in completing several inference type questions like this until they get the hang of it. Make sure to point out the details or facts of each inference that led them to draw their conclusion. You could have them list the facts and inferences in a T-chart.

Another way to reinforce this skill is with "The Inference or Fact Envelope" activity. This is to help students distinguish between facts and inferences. Give each student an envelope with a fact or an inference on the front. There should be a folded index card on the inside with the answer. Students read the card and then walk around the room to see who has the same topic as they do. The students then discuss which one is a fact and which is an inference. When the teacher announces, "The Envelope Please," the students open their envleopes to see if they were correct.

Some sample envelopes and cards:

The cat was making my sister sneeze. (Inference)
My sister is allergic to cats. (Fact)

The boy did not have any friends. (Inference)
The boy was new in town. (Fact)

We were red from the sun. (Inference)
We did not use suntan lotion. (Fact)

The team needs to practice. (Inference)
They did not score a goal all year. (Fact)

Another great activity for connecting details and experiences to make inferences is to use a wordsplash. Show students a picture of a familiar person, animal, object, or scene. In pairs, have them create a wordsplash describing the person or thing. Have them include physical descriptions, facts, and things they believe to be true. Then, they use their descriptions from the wordsplash to complete a graphic organizer as a group. It should be a three column chart. The first column labeled details, the second column labeled what I already know and then the last column titled Inference. This will show how details and what you already know help you make inferences and draw conclusions.

A fun game your kids will love is called "Name that Inference." For example: There is a place where everything is quiet. There are many shelves and a lot of people reading books. Name that inference: The Library! This is just a good way to review and the kids will enjoy it!

How do you teach inferencing and drawing conclusions?

Main Idea Activating Strategies

Main idea is a very important concept for kids to understand. If they can't understand main idea, then what's the point of even reading!? I can't tell you how many excellent readers I've seen in my short time teaching that can't seem to get anything out of their reading. They couldn't even tell me what they read about.

In light of that, here are some activating strategies for teaching main idea.

Using word webs and concept maps are great tools for introducing concepts in the content areas or even a theme for one of your read alouds. Having kids brainstorm anything they know about the subject really jumpstarts the thinking process.

Predict a Passage is another good way to introduce the concept of main idea. The focus of this strategy is to predict what the story is about, read the passage, and then correct any misconceptions at the end.

Another strategy is "The Main Idea Envelope Please." Give students envelopes with either a topic sentence, supporting detail, or a main idea on the front. Inside will be a card with the correct response folded so it cannot be seen through the envelope. Have the students go around the room and see whose envelopes belong with their group. Once the students have found their group, they are to read their envelope and discuss which one is the topic, supporting detail, and the main idea. They are to give reasons for their choices. Then, they should say which one they think they have (topic sentence, supporting detail, or main idea. Once the prediction has been made, the teacher announces, "The Envelope Please." This is the signal for the students to open their envelope and see if their predictions were correct.

I was also thinking that a Carousel Brainstorming is a good way to get students thinking about the main idea of a content area. In Social Studies, we are about to start a unit on South Carolina in the 19th and 20th centuries (Jim Crow Laws, new technologies, mill villages, The Great Depression, and the New Deal). I decided to paste pictures related to each topic on posterboard and laminate them. I will have students carousel around the room to each photo making comments with white board markers or sticky notes. (Reusing materials is always a plus and a timesaver!) Having them jot down their "thinkings," inferences, and comments about each photo is a good way to see what they already know and to get them interested and thinking about the new topic.

If you know any other good main idea strategies, please share with us!

Fact or Opinion

We have been reviewing fact and opinion this week in Reading and I found that many of my students struggled to distinguish between some facts and opinions. We talked about key words to identify opinions and questions you can ask yourself to determine fact or opinion, such as "Can this statement be proven," and "Would everyone agree with this statement?" Alas, they struggled still...

I found some other activities to try to help scaffold student learning about fact and opinion. When introducing the concept, start with a picture of the beach or some other vacation destination. Discuss how the picture is a place where people go on vacation (fact.) Explain how some people think the beach is the best place to go on a vacation (opinion). Allow students to state facts about the picture and list them in a chart. Then have them form their own opinions about the picture and list those in a chart as well.

Another idea to introduce fact and opinion is to pick 5 things people have varying opinions on like broccoli, bedtimes, or colors. Present one fact about the item and ask students if they agree. Tally the result. Present one opinion about the item and ask students if they agree. Tally the result. Hopefully this will help them see that everyone agrees on facts whereas people have differing points of view about opinions. Give students a topic and have them write one fact and one opinion.

You can also do a fact and opinion sort. Type up some facts and opinions in a 2 columned table. Print them out and have students cut them apart. Students can sort them into a fact column and an opinion column.

A fact and opinion matching game can also be fun and engaging. Write some facts and opinions on index cards or print them on paper. I would place them in an envelope for each group. Students work in groups of two and turn all the cards face down in a square. Students take turns flipping over cards to match two facts or two opinions. If a student gets a match, they take another turn. If the cards are not a match, they are turned back over in the same place and the next player takes a turn. The person with the most matches at the end of the game wins!

These are just a few activities to help students understand fact and opinion. What activities do you use in your classroom to teach this concept?

When it snows...

in South Carolina, people freak out. Seriously. It flurried for an hour and school was let out at 12pm. None of the snow even stuck to the ground!

This got me thinking about some activities you can do in your classroom to quell the excitement and energy that your students will most likely have.

1. Watch a standard related "Magic School Bus." (Yes, I did this today while my students had lunch in the classroom.)

2. Play a game to review math facts. One of my favorite games is "Around the World." My students beg to play this! Seat the students in a semi-circle. Choose one student to start and have them stand behind the first person in the semi-circle. Show those two students a math fact and the first to guess the answer advances to the next student in the circle. If the student standing answers incorrectly, they sit down in the place of the person who answered before them. The object is to get all the way around the circle without being beaten. It's all about speed! My kids get so excited about this game and they end up yelling and screaming, so I tell them they aren't aloud to talk when they're not answering because it's hard to hear who answers first sometimes. I make them sit out for a few minutes if they break the rule. I feel so bad telling them they can't play anymore!

3. is another good idea if you have computers to put the kids on. We have 5 mobile laptop carts at our school, so next time, I will definitely try to put the kids on computers!

Once students catch a glimpse of the snow and find out they get to go home, all doesn't have to be lost! You just need to be creative to keep them engaged!