Looking for some math games for kids? Yay! Supporting strong numeracy development is so important for children. It begins in infancy and continues through a child’s education and into adulthood. Children often learn “tips” (aka algorithms) that help them solve math problems, but that isn’t actually that helpful. What they really need is a strong understanding of how numbers work and fit together. If you’re not a trained educator, this can seem extremely daunting, but I promise it’s not. You can use these simple math games for kids to help your children gain a better understanding of numbers which will help them be successful mathematicians throughout their life.
My favorite Math Games for Kids
Be sure to also read my blog post on how to speak to children about math in order to best support them!
For the Board Game Fan
Monopoly is a great math game for kids at any level. For young children who are just learning to count, they can play on a team with a parent or older sibling and count the dots on the dice, moving the piece the appropriate number of spaces. As the child’s math skills progress a little bit, you can make it into a math problem, having the child add the two numbers in their head rather than simply counting the dots.
For children in the mid-elementary school grades, have the child count money. You may even want to give the child several bills of the same denomination when you land on the child’s property. This will allow the child to count by numbers other than one, such as by 5s, 10s, 20s, 50s, or 100s.
Children can also work on their two-digit and three-digit addition skills as they count their money to determine if they can afford a property or as they add the mortgage value of their properties. Multiplication skills are developed as the child buys multiple houses or hotels. When the child lands on Income Tax, it’s time to work on percentages.
For the Child Who Enjoys Card Games
Simple additions skills can be developed while playing 21. If it reminds you too much of gambling, you can play to a different number or use something other than basic playing cards, such as the number cards from Uno or children’s playing cards.
Pass out two cards to each player, the first one face-down and the second face-up. Without letting other players see their face-down card everyone adds the numbers on their cards, with jacks, queens, and kings being worth 10 points and aces worth either 1 or 11, depending on the player’s preference. If players have not reached 21, they can ask for additional cards, but everyone needs to remember that the goal is to get the closest to 21 (or whatever number you have chosen) without going over. Instead of explaining strategy to children, allow them to learn on their own and develop their own strategy for playing. When they learn the risks of going over 21 on their own, they’re building a strong numeracy understanding, instead of learning a “trick” for playing cards.
For slightly older children, you can have them work on multiplication skills by multiplying the numbers rather than adding. In that case, you would go with a higher number, such as the closest to 100 without going over.
For the Child Who Enjoys Outdoor Games
Ladder ball is a fun game for people of any age. Inexpensive ladder ball sets can often be purchased at sporting goods stores, at many retail stores, or online. If you’ve got the DIY skills, you may even be able to make one yourself. Balls attached to a rope (called bolos) are tossed at the three-tier ladder. Points are scored if the player can wrap their rope around the ladder’s rungs, which are each worth a different amount: one, two, and three points respectively. Have your children add their own points each round. The goal is to be the first to get to 21. Generally, players have to get exactly to 21, so if they go over, their points for that round don’t count, and they have to try again the next round. You can, though, play the first to 21 or more.
One good thing about playing to 21 or another exact number is that it requires subtraction skills as well as more strategy. The child has to figure out exactly how many more points are needed for the win.
For the Athlete
If your child loves playing sports, make it into an addition game, with different points for each type of play. For example, in basketball, it can be much like a game of HORSE, with the under the leg shot being worth three points, a shot that hits the backboard before going in being worth two points, and a backward shot being worth four points. Have the children add their own points.
If your child prefers soccer, use this same idea. An outside of the foot shot could be worth two points, one with the child’s non-dominate foot could be worth three points, and extra points could be awarded for shots that bounce off the crossbar before the child kicks it in. While younger children should not be doing headers, for older elementary school kids, you could also establish a specific number of points for a header. As with the basketball game, children should add their own points.
Of course, any of these games can be adapted to fit your child’s math needs. The key is finding something that interests your child enough that it doesn’t feel like math homework. It just feels like a fun time.