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Using Math Games for Math Fact Fluency

As students progress in mathematics they must be able to recall their basic math facts instantly. Children learn best through play, but often math facts are taught using flashcards or speed drills. While both of these have their place in the mathematics classroom, it is often difficult to motivate children to spend the necessary amount of time reviewing them. Math games are a fun and effective way to help children memorize their basic facts painlessly.  By beginning each math class with a 5- 10 minute math fact game your students will increase their fact fluency rapidly and have fun doing it. 

To gather the necessary supplies for your math fact games you can request parents send them in.  In the beginning of the school year I send an empty gallon sized zip-lock bag home with each student. On the front of the bag I stick a packing label with a list of the items their child will need for their math fact bag.  After I have handed out the bag and discussed it with my students I let them use Sharpies and stickers to decorate their bag with math themed pictures, symbols and vocabulary.

I put the following items on my student’s math fact bag packing list:      
1. Deck of cards
2.  Pair of dice
3.  Set of Dominoes
4.  Small Notebook (to keep score during games)
5.  Box of Crayons (8 count)

All the items on the packing list can be purchased at the Dollar Store, so each bag should cost no more than $5.  I make sure to have a small treat for students when they bring their filled math fact bags back.

Once the children have returned their math bags I place a laminated copy of each math game they will play in their bag. This allows students to play the games for homework or independently at centers. Colored card stock looks attractive and makes the direction cards sturdy.  I fit four sets of rules per sheet of paper, cut them and them, laminate them, and then attach each set of rules using a 2” loose leaf metal ring.  The ring keeps students from losing their math fact game directions and allows them to flip through them quickly. I can also easily add games to their ring throughout the year. You may also wish to place a 100’s chart, multiplication chart, or number line in each bag to help students who need a little extra support.

There are countless variations of math fact games you can play using cards, dice and dominoes on the Internet, and I am sure you will quickly find enough to keep your students happily calculating all year long.  Here are some of my students’ favorites to get you started.

Card Game                                                                                         
Game: Be a Mind Reader                                                               
Skill: Multiplication, addition, or subtraction.           
Number of players: 3
1.    Two students flip up a card from their deck and place it on their forehead without looking.
2.    The third player looks at both cards and calls out the answer. This may be the sum, difference or product depending on the math skill they are working on.  Each card is worth its number value. Jacks, queens, and kings are worth 11, 12, and 13 points respectively.
3.    The other two players look at the card on their opponent’s forehead and race to figure out what card they are holding.
4.    The first player to correctly deduce what card they are holding wins.

Dice Game
Game: Race to 100
Skill: Addition or Subtraction.
Number of players: 2        
1.    Players roll their dice simultaneously and then add the sum of the numbers on each of their die to 0.
2.    Each player then rolls their die again and adds it to their current total.  This continues until one player breaks 100.
3.    This game may also be played backwards from 100 to 0 to practice subtraction facts. Players begin at 100 and deduct the difference of the numbers on each die until they reach 0.

Domino Game
Game: Train of 10’s
Skill: Addition
Number of players: 2             
1.    Flip dominoes over so their numbers cannot be seen.
2.    Each player is to draw 7 dominoes.
3.    Flip one domino over and place it in the middle.
4.    On their turn each player must match a domino from their hand to a number on the domino so that the two numbers touching have a sum of 10. If a student cannot make a 10 with the dominoes in their hand then they lose their turn.
5.    Once students have placed a domino they are to choose another from the draw pile.
6.    Play ends when all the dominoes have been used or no more 10’s can be made.
7.    The player with the least dominoes in their hand at the end of the game is the winner.