Quick Math Games

Four Strikes and You’re Out

You need: a partner, a pencil, and a piece of paper

Player A forms a two-digit plus two-digit addition computation and hides it from Player B.

Player A creates a template that looks like the one below.

__ __ + __ __ = __ __


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Player B guesses the digits in the computation. Player A fills in the template. Each guess is recorded in every appropriate place value holder. If Player B’s guess is not correct, Player A marks a strike.

Player B tries to guess all of the digits in the entire computation before getting four strikes.

Source: Teaching Arithmetic: Lessons for Addition and Subtraction, Grades 2–3 by Barbara Tank and Lynn Zolli


Digit Place

You need: a partner, a pencil, and a piece of paper

Each person picks a three-digit number with no two digits the same. Partners take turns guessing each other’s numbers. Each time someone guesses, the other person tells how many digits in the guess are correct and how many of the correct digits are in the correct place. Do not tell which digits are correct or in the correct place, just how many. Whoever guesses the other player’s number first wins that round.

Source: About Teaching Mathematics by Marilyn Burns


Guess My Word

You need: a partner

One player thinks of a three-letter word for the other to guess. Whenever the person guesses, the player who thought of the word tells whether the guess comes before or after the word in the dictionary. Continue until the correct word is guessed.

Source: About Teaching Mathematics by Marilyn Burns


Odd Number Wins

You need: 15 pennies

Place 15 pennies on the table. Take turns removing one, two, or three pennies. Variation #1: The player with the odd number of pennies. wins. Variation #2: The player who removes the last penny wins. (Note: These games, often called games of NIM, have limitless varieties. For example, you can change the starting number of pennies, change the number of pennies you can remove each turn, or reverse the winning condition.)


Travel Math

Travel provides families with a great opportunity to talk about math.

  • Try to find all numbers 0 through 9 on the license plates of the cars you pass. Look for license plates with numbers that go in order (e.g., 1, 2, 3). Or, try to find license plates with numbers that form addition and subtraction equations (e.g., the license plate 3192KZ contains the equation 9 + 3 = 12). For older students, look for license plate with numbers that form multiplication and division equations (e.g., the license plate 2483KZ contains the equation 3 x 8 = 24).
  • Talk about distance, rate, and time as you travel. If you pass a traffic alert sign that reads, “Exit 4: 8 miles, 40 minutes,” talk about what that means (e.g., Does it signal traffic ahead?). If you’ve traveled less than one mile and you’ve been in the car for almost twenty minutes, estimate your approximate average speed in miles per hour. If you are staying in a hotel with an elevator, see if the speed of the elevator is posted (it often is). Talk about what this rate tells you about how long it will take you to get to your room (and whether it would be faster to walk).
  • Use “ballpark estimates” to describe your trip: Think of three “benchmark” numbers (e.g., 10, 25 and 50 or ½, 1, and 100) and ask your children to use one of the numbers to describe your trip so far (e.g., we’ve listened to about 10 songs on the radio by now).
  • Look for objects that are squares, circles, triangles, hexagons, etc. Describe the types of roofs you see as you pass buildings and homes. How do the roofs vary by shape? Why are some roofs flat? Examine the logos on cars. Which have lines of symmetry? Which have rotational symmetry?