Games can be very entertaining. Math games provide opportunities for students to develop fluency, deepen mathematical thinking and strategies, and promote retention.
Of course, it may take some thought to create a game that develops math skills, but just treat it as a fun activity. Aside from online math games, you can try board games, card games, outdoor games, math puzzles, and even math tricks. Here are some enjoyable ones that develop different math skills.
1. 1089 Math Trick
You may have seen math tricks before. But one that never ceases to amaze is the 1089 trick! It uses addition and subtraction and will impress anyone.
- First, choose a 3-digit number (The three digits used must be different): For example 251. Reverse the digits: 152
- Then, subtract the lesser number from the greater: 251 −152 = 099. (Always write the answer with 3 digits.) Reverse the difference: 990
- Finally, add those two numbers: 099 + 990 = 1089
No matter what number you choose in Step 1, your answer is always 1089! Use it to impress your friends! See if you can figure out why it always works.
2. Game of Codes
Codes have been used all over the world for hundreds of years to send secret messages. You can use a simple code like the one below to develop counting skills, or make it more complex by assigning numbers to letters using patterns or computation.
3. Dominoes: Five-Up
Domino games have been around for a very long time and are believed to have been invented in China. A similar game was played long ago in Egypt and was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. There are many ways that dominoes can help develop computational skills and strategic thinking. Here’s a game that uses multiples of 5 and addition.
- Each of the 2 to 4 players takes 5 dominoes and leaves the rest (in the boneyard). The first player plays any domino.
- The next player plays a domino to match either end, and so on, to make a chain.
- The first double is placed crosswise in the chain, and up to four dominoes can be played against that double.
- If a player cannot play, they take dominoes from the boneyard until one can be played. The dominoes they could not play remain in that player’s hand.
After each play, the ends are totaled. If the total is a multiple of 5, the player scores that total. The first player to play all their dominoes scores points from the dominoes remaining in the other players’ hands.
Let us know how much you liked that fun math game!
4. Magic Squares
Magic squares have fascinated people for thousands of years and in ancient times they were believed to be connected to magic. A magic square can have 3 rows and 3 columns, or 4 rows and 4 columns, etc. In a magic square, the sum of each row, column and diagonal is always the same; it’s the magic constant.
To make this a fun math game, try creating a game board of squares. You can pre-fill some of the squares and have players fill in the remaining ones, or have players complete the entire board. Here is a way to create a magic square for any odd-number square board.
- Draw the square board. Then draw a pyramid of squares on each side, starting with 2 fewer squares than the side of the square board.
- Starting at 1, put the sequence of numbers in the diagonals.
- Then, put the numbers, from the squares that you added, into the original square board so that the number goes into the square at the opposite end of the row or column.
What is the magic number?
If you add or multiply the same number to every number in a magic square, it will remain magic! Now, it’s your turn to play! Try this fun math game with your students or children.
5. Draw a shape without lifting the pencil
Have you ever tried to draw a shape without lifting the pencil, or overlapping lines? Try to do this with the 5-pointed star. Then the 7-pointed star
What about other shapes? Try these…
In math, these problems are referred to as Euler paths or circuits. And yes, there is a mathematical approach to these math puzzles. Maybe you can figure it out!
6. Two Stones
Many of us know Tic-Tac-Toe or Chess as games of strategy. Here is another game that requires strategic thinking.
This game of strategy is called Ou-moul-ko-no in Korea and Pon Hau k’I in China.
- First, one player places two game pieces at the top, and the other player places two at the bottom.
- Then, the players take turns moving a game piece to an empty space. Note that the first empty space is in the middle.
- The game ends when a player is blocked and cannot make a move.
Enjoy these fun math games and math puzzles with your students or children. You can find other math games, puzzles and tricks in online resources. Use a resource like Buzzmath to learn math skills and create fun math games.