Playing games can be fun and math-friendly, and can help at any grade level to happily and painlessly hone math skills. Most classic, well-known games can easily be adapted for math practice. Buzz, Bingo, Tic-Tac-Toe, to name just a few, can be transformed into math skill-building versions. Have fun adapting some family favorites; here are a few to start with:

1-2-3 SPIDERWEB Grade 1 (counting, skip counting)

1) Wind bulky yarn (rainbow’s nice) or soft clothesline into a ball, tying a loop at the end.

2) Players (at least 5) sit cross-legged in a large circle with one of the players holding the ball.

3) That player starts by saying the first number, rolling the ball (while holding on to the looped end) to another player.

4) The yarn or rope is held by each player who then rolls the ball to the next player, while saying the next number.

5) Play continues until the ball is unwound and a “spiderweb” pattern is formed.

6) The ball is then rewound as the last player rolls the ball to the next to last player, following the pattern and either counting the same number sequence backwards or starting a new sequence.

1-2-3 BUZZ Grades 1 and up (counting, skip counting, times tables)

1) Players sit in a circle and call out numbers in turn.

2) Start by counting numbers in order up to 100.

3) Move on to skip counting 2s, 5s, and 10s up to 100 by saying the word BUZZ in place of those numbers (for 2s: 1-BUZZ-3-BUZZ-5-BUZZ, for 5s: 1-2-3-4-BUZZ-6-7-8-9-BUZZ, etc.

4) Begin with the lower and progress to the higher times tables as they are learned, by saying BUZZ in place of those numbers.

5) Anyone who misses a number or a BUZZ is out, and the last player in wins.

B-I-N-G-O Grades 2 and up (number recognition and ordering)

1) Use small squares of paper to write numbers 1-75 one on each square, with the following letters: 1-15/B, 16-30/I, 31-45/N, 46-60/G, 61-75/O.

2) Make a BINGO card for each of the players with 5 rows of 5 squares, with one of the letters in the word B-I-N-G-O written at the top of each column.

3) Each player chooses 5 random numbers from the groups for each letter, and writes them in the 5 spaces below that letter, in numerical order.

4) The center space (the 3rd one under N) is FREE.

5) Each player is given 25 markers (buttons, stones, glass gems).

6) The 75 numbered and lettered squares are placed in a bowl, and numbers are called, one by one.

7) The first player to spell BINGO, across, down, or diagonally, wins. Fill up all 25 spaces for an extra challenge!!

MAGIC SQUARE TIC-TAC-TOE Grades 3 and up (patterning and addition)

1) Draw 2 parallel vertical lines crossed by 2 parallel horizontal lines to create the classic 9-square Tic-Tac-Toe grid.

2) Assign the even numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 to one player, and the odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 to the other.

3) The player with odds goes first, placing one of the odd numbers in any square.

4) The other player does the same with one of the even numbers.

5) The object is to construct a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row that adds up to 15.

6) The first player to do this wins, or the game ends in a draw when all squares are filled.

Favorite card games are fun to transform and play with as well. Math can be exciting and interesting, and playing games is a great way to keep math skills sharp!

Marin holds a Masters Degree in Waldorf Education, and a California teaching credential in art. She’s had years of experience as a Waldorf class teacher in the early grades, has taught hands-on science and math to homeschoolers in grades 1-6.

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