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Does Playing Elementary Math Games = Academic Knowledge?

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Does Playing Elementary Math Games = Academic Knowledge?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

When you peer into a Lower Elementary classroom at The Fay School you may ask yourself “Why are these students scattered about the room playing games?!” “Is the excitement and interaction noticed conducive to a learning environment?” “Students are to go to school to gain academic knowledge in reading, writing, and arithmetic. But games???” Yes, I can assure you what you are witnessing is academics at its finest. The use of math games provides students opportunities to discover essential number concepts, pattern discovery, logic, reasoning, and one-to-one correspondence, among other math skills.

Why Games?

  • Games are enjoyable and engaging
  • Students gain an understanding of computational efficiency and accuracy
  • Students apply strategies to solve problems
  • Differentiation organically occurs
  • Students develop a love of math and learning!

Social-Emotional Benefits of Games:

  • Decision Making: Students are permitted to choose from various games provided to reinforce a given concept. They can use strategies to determine player order.
  • Collaborative Learning: Students are required to share, take turns, and assist one another through explanation and peer teaching moments.
  • Self-Regulation: It is essential that students control emotions when interacting in small groups. Students learn to encourage and accept disappointment.
  • Accountability: Students are interacting in small peer groups with a teacher in proximity. Students oversee following the guidelines of the game and taking turns


Math Games You Can Do at Home

Elementary Math Games

Here are some of the games our students are frequently engaged in and the skills and concepts being reinforced.

Materials: A set of number cards with four cards each of the numbers 0-10, a penny (optional)
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Number of Players: 2 or 3

  • A player shuffles the cards and places the deck number-side down on the playing surface. Each player turns over two cards and calls out their sum. The player with the highest sum wins the round and takes all the cards. In the case of a tie, each player turns over two more cards and calls out their sum. The player with the highest sum then takes all the cards from both plays. The game ends when not enough cards are left for each player to have another turn. The player with the most cards wins.


  • Children toss a penny to determine whether the player with the most or the fewest cards wins.

Game Variations: 

  • Use a set of double-nine dominoes instead of a set of number cards to generate additional problems. Place the dominoes face down on the playing surface. Each player turns over a domino and calls out the sum of the dots on the two halves. The winner of a round takes all the dominoes then in play.
  • To practice addition with three addends, use three cards.

Materials: 10 pennies for each player
Age Group: Lower Elementary
Number of Players: 2 or more

  • Players count out 10 pennies and then split them between their two hands. (Help children identify their left and right hands).
  • Call on several children to share their amounts. For example, my left hand has 1 and my right hand has 9; left hand 3 and right hand 7; left hand 4 and right hand 6; left hand 5 and right hand 5.
  • Record the various splits for any given number on the chalkboard.
  • Partners continue to play using different total numbers of pennies—for example, 9, 12, 20.


  • Partners take turns grabbing one part of a pile of 20 pennies. The other partner takes the remainder of the pile. Both players count their pennies, secretly. The partner making the grab uses the count to say how many pennies must be in the partner's hand. (I have 12, so you must have 8.) The eventual result is many addition names for 20.
  • Change the number of pennies in the pile to practice addition names for other numbers.

These are just a few of the many educational games played at Fay. However, the fun doesn’t have to stop at the end of the school day. I encourage you to play games as a family. It is a great way to spend quality time together and your child will be unaware of the academic gains that are occurring. For more game ideas and resources, click here. Let the fun begin!

 About Sissy Witte: Sissy has served in education for over 20 years. She is currently the Principal at The Fay School. As a mother of 5 children, all of which chose independent schools as their educational path, she is a firm believer in schools and families working closely together to develop the whole child.