Playing a Math Game Can Enhance the Learning Experience

This fun and educational game will help your students develop their mathematics skills.

By Greg Harrison

Playing a Math Game Can Enhance the Learning Experience

It's a Thursday morning, and your kids are coming back from recess. You have the day's math lesson all planned out and ready to go. Not long after you begin the lesson, you realize it's not going well, because you are spending more time trying to keep students on task than teaching. So, you turn off the lights and invite your students to put their heads down on their desks to cool off and calm down. While their heads are down, you might be asking yourself if it is even worth it to push ahead with the math lesson; given the emotional state of the class. You may ask yourself, "What else can I do?" Here's a solution I came up with for this very common problem - make learning a game.

A Math Game Called Reject!

Reject is a place value game, and the picture drawn below represents the first 6 place values; ones through hundred-thousands. The game is played with two dice, and the object is to combine the numbers rolled into the highest number possible. Here's how you play:

Start by drawing the following picture on your whiteboard:    _ _ _, _ _ _

Then, have your students copy this on their paper and put a little box (the "Reject Box") above the drawing. Next, you roll the dice and students take the sum of the two dice and select a place value to put that digit in. Let's say you roll a four and a three; they would then place the digit seven in one of the six spaces drawn on their paper. What is the best value to get? Nine of course! If you roll a five and a four, or a six and a three, students get to put a nine in one of the places of greater value. But wait, since you're rolling two dice, what happens if the value is a ten, eleven, or twelve? Here's the answer: 10=0, 11=1, and 12=9.

That Reject Box

Students get to throw away or "reject" one of the rolls. Let's say you roll a six and a five for a total of eleven. They may decide that they don't want to use the digit 1 in their answer because it is so small, so they might put it in the reject box. The same goes if you roll a ten, which stands for the digit zero. As the game goes on, students are using mathematical strategy by placing the higher digits in the places of greatest value, and the smaller digits in the places of lesser value. Additionally, they are using elements of probability in selecting the place for their digits. For the game above, let's say the ten thousand and hundred thousand places are the only ones left empty, and you roll an eight. Students must decide whether they should put that eight in the ten-thousands place in hope that you roll a nine on the last roll, or, "play it safe" and put the eight in the hundred thousands place.

Rules, Rules, Rules

There are some very important rules to adhere to when playing Reject.

  • Students may NEVER erase a number they've selected for particular space. Once a number is written in, it's set in stone and can't be changed.
  • All students MUST have selected a place for the value of the dice rolled before you roll again. Studentsaren't allowed to "wait and see" what you roll before making a choice for the previous roll.

When the game is over, the students who have the highest numbers are the winners. You can reward them with tally marks or points for their section or table group, or give them my favorite prize . . . the Hershey's Kiss! Once your students become familiar with Reject, they will beg you to play it with them. You can also make the game more interesting by playing using higher place values, such as:   _, _ _ _, _ _ _ or even     _ _, _ _ _, _ _ _.

Here are some other math game lesson plans for you to peruse.

Math Games:

Math Bingo

This simple math game is designed for preschool through first grade. Each student has a Bingo card with numbers written on it. When the teacher calls out a number, the students color in the space. This is a great way to have students practice number recognition.

Positive and Negative Integers: A Card Game

This clever lesson is designed for middle-elementary students. They use a standard deck of cards and play a game which reinforces the concepts of positive and negative integers. All of the black cards are "positive," and all of the red cards are "negative." Students try to get a score of twenty based on the cards they are dealt.

Math Game: Fraction, Decimal and Percentage Conversions

This lesson is designed for middle school students. They play a memory/matching game which helps them practice making conversions between fractions, decimals and percents.

Talking About Your Name in Math Terms

This lesson is designed for high school students, and would be a fun ice breaker at the beginning of the year. Students print their names in block letters, and use vocabulary associated with geometry to describe their names. A fun and inventive lesson!




Elementary Math Guide

Greg Harrison