3 Key Reasons Learning with Math Games will Motivate Your Students Differently

Try this ultimate learning with math games solution!

Learning with math games is the perfect way to engage your students. Why is learning with games the perfect solution for young learners? The answer is simple. Kids love to play games! Games actually help release endorphins that assist in knowledge retention, as well as creating a sense of happiness and excitement. Last week we shared a lot of information about learning with games. We hear all the time about teacher and student frustrations when teaching math in the classroom.

Are you a teacher who is desperately trying to help your students connect the dots? Or are your students bored with worksheets? Maybe the manipulatives have begun to lose their luster?

Here are the 3 key reasons learning with math games can motivate your students differently.


  1. boost student confidence
  2. encourage deeper learning
  3. provide more reliable results.

Oh, but before we get to it, here is one of our easy movement games that we know will become a staple in your classroom.

You can begin with our FREE 5 Day Scoot Challenge! Inside this challenge, you get a FREE Scoot to try, along with 5 days worth of activities to do with one resource. Ready to check it out?

CLICK HERE for all the value you can possible get out of a single resource!


Why this math game for classroom technique is a game-changer

How many times have you had to wipe away tears when your student struggles with their math work? My heart breaks for these students that are working so hard they eventually put their heads on their desks and give up. You know they need to understand the material, but you’re not sure how to make it click.

picture of kid giving up

In this article in Edutopia, Harry O’Malley states,”Game mechanics are useful in teaching math because they heighten emotion, engagement, and attention at each phase.” When your students go into shutdown mode, games are what activate them!

Here are some great games for math class in centers or independent work!


I Want to Win

I Want to Win is played like “War.” I just changed what students say so they aren’t declaring war on each other. The game is played in partners, and each partner is given number cards based on what skill you are working on. It can be cards with just numbers from 1-100 or give them cards with math facts but not the answers. You can also have coins for them to have to count on the cards.

How to play:

  • Each kid turns their stack of cards over, and then they flip the top card over, and the card that has the highest number wins and the winner takes both cards.
  • If the cards have the same number or answer, then each student turns over 4 cards and says,”I want to win.” Then the highest number gets to take all 10 cards.
  • Game is over when all the cards have been turned over and the winner is the students with the most cards.

If you don’t want to make your own cards, then check out this 4 pack with numbers to 100 and addition and subtraction. 

Roll and Cover

Roll and Cover is another fun math game for kids. Each kid is given a sheet to cover and the kid that covers their sheet first wins. The sheet can have numbers or math facts. Each student takes turns rolling dice and placing their markers on their sheets. Grab this free one and try it.

Math Mat Games

Math Mat Games are just any game you create on a mat with whatever math skill you are working on, and add dice and you are ready to go. These games make great centers as well. You may want to check out these math mat games that are already done for you.

How to guarantee success with games for math practice

Time and time again, research has proven that drill techniques and timed tests do not have the power that mathematical games and other experiences have. In an article in Mathnasium called Why Math Games are Important, Kitty Rutherford quotes Principles and Standards for School Mathematics,

Fluency requires a balance and connection between conceptual understanding and computational proficiency. Computational methods that are over-practiced without understanding are forgotten or remembered incorrectly. Conceptual understanding without fluency can inhibit the problem-solving process(p.35)

So basically the proficiency part is the math drills, worksheets, practice, practice, practice, but unfortunately in this case, practice does not make perfect. In fact, practice takes your students further away from perfect than they could be with the influence of math games in the classroom. Rutherford goes on to quote Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Grades K–3,

Appropriate mathematical activities are essential building blocks to develop mathematically proficient students who demonstrate computational fluency (Van de Walle and Lovin, p. 94)

The main takeaway of Rutherford’s section on fluency is that you need 3 components: efficiency, accuracy, and flexibility. Your students need to do more than learn the facts. They need to apply the concepts.


Scoot is one of our most popular games for math practice because there are so very many different ways to use it. In her article, Rutherford states the importance of introducing a skill and giving students the opportunity to apply that skill in practice before playing fact-based games. Scoot cards can also be used as task cards in a center. Students can take this time to use their fingers, manipulatives, or a number line in order to find the best computation strategy for them. Brittany talks more about the student-centered math approach in 3 Easy Steps to Total Comprehension for All Learners.

Scoot can be used to pre-assess a skill that you want to explore with your students. I like to do this to help me set up my guided math groups. Now since it is a topic that has yet to be introduced, it is important for you to stress that it is a no-pressure game. If a student doesn’t know the answer, it isn’t a reflection on how “smart” they are because they haven’t learned the concepts yet.

This form of pre-assessment allows my students to have fun and provides much-appreciated insight to keep my groups consistent with student needs. Scoot is great because it engages all my students at once and it doesn’t put pressure to win on a single person like quiz-based games. I like to have my students check their own recording sheets so they can see what problems they missed. Encourage your students to collaborate with a little scavenger hunt. Have them find a friend with the correct answer to each problem they missed. Partners can have a quick pair and share to swap problem-solving strategies.

Once your students are confident with a skill, Scoot is a familiar and safe space for them to test their math knowledge!

kids playing math scoot game

In her article, Why Math Games are Important, Rutherford provides some great strategies for deepening your students’ learning before or after playing math games in the classroom.

Once I saw how excited my students got when we played Scoot, Brittany and I decided to make A TON, including these games for math facts. We also have number order, which is a wonderful math game for kindergarten. If they aren’t ready to play Scoot, it makes a great center with the manipulatives that are included. There is also telling time, money and more!

Speaking of Scoot, remember to Sign up HERE  for your free game.

Why games for math review deliver powerful solutions

One of the active learning strategies I use is games for math review. I want my students to practice math skills all through the year so we review the concepts more than just once. My kids have a better understanding of math because we play games for math review.

One excellent game that encourages fluency is mentioned in another Edutopia article, 3 Math Games You Can Use in Class Today. The game is called “What Number Am I?” Here’s how you play:

What Number Am I?

Student A comes to the board and faces the class. The number 18 is written on the board. Student A calls on student B for a clue, and student B says, “You are the product of 3 and 6.” If student A knows this product, they can say, “I’m 18!” but if they are not sure, they can call on another student for a new clue.

To scale down the difficulty, you might tell students to only use addition and subtraction facts as clues and to emphasize words like sum and difference. You may want to focus on smaller numbers to write on the board.

To scale up the difficulty, you may give students larger numbers to work with, encourage the use of multiplication and division facts, or have students use square roots and exponents in their clues.

As a primary teacher, you will likely use only addition and subtraction, but you can also use greater than, less than, place value, etc.

This is an amazing way to combine multiple skills at one time into a critical thinking application scenario. You can assess using a tracking sheet. Take a look at how to collect observational data with our post Data Collection Strategies for Independent Learning.

Brain Bounce 

Brain Bounce is a great way to do spiral math review with your students. The cards cover multiple skills, which makes them a perfect addition to your games for math review. You divide your class into 2 teams and let them choose team names. Then you let a student from each team pick a number between 1-10. The team with the closest number starts the game. You read a card with a math question and if the student answers correctly, they earn a point for their team. Then it is the next team’s turn. If a child answers incorrectly, the other team gets a chance to answer it. Then they also get another question for their turn. You keep a tally of all the points on a whiteboard or smart board. You continue play until all the cards are read. The team with the most points wins.

picture of teacher in front of the room

How to do it

Create math cards based on what math skills you have already taught or you can purchase our Brain Bounce Cards. They also have a recording sheet so you can tape the cards around the room and let students record their answers as a review or to use as an assessment.

Remember “What Number Am I?”

Give each student a card and write a number on the board. Have one student, Student A, stand with their back to the board. Students look at the number and hold up their card if it is true about the number on the board. For example, greater than 40. If the number on the board is greater than 40, that student, Student B holds up their card. Student A looks at all of the cards that are held up and uses these “clues” to guess the number.

Here are all the different games for math review for different skills:

Candy Spiral Math Review

math game

Christmas Spiral Math Review

Back to School Spiral Math Review

St. Patrick’s Spiral Math Review

Busy Bee Spiral Math Review

Spring Spiral Math Review


Do your strategies for independent learners include digital?

We also have these games for math review in Boom Cards which are digital and self-checking and if you have a subscription, you can actually get data from all your students once they finished playing the game. Read about more ideas HERE. 

The perfect math game for Kindergarten

This little secret is so simple and fun that it’s no secret why it’s the perfect math game for Kindergarten! I taught kindergarten for 15 years and I still help in the kindergarten class, so I know how much our sweet kinder babies need to play games and to move around.

It is important that all young children are physically active every day. In fact, physical activity may play a bigger role in a child’s development than previously believed. Research suggests that promoting movement and activity in young children can help increase memory, perception, language, attention, emotion and even decision making. (Michigan State University Extension) 

Counting Circle Game

Gather students in a big circle and start counting around the circle. Each student says the next number in order when it is their turn. If they miss the number they will sit down. Game continues until there is only 1 student standing. You can play this game using any math skill you are working on, such as skip count by 2’s, 5’s or 10’s.

You can incorporate manipulatives from our adorable Pet Scoot Skip Counting Bundle.

Fun and easy movement games for math facts

My students get so excited when we play games for math facts! They like to play games like Baseball, Basketball, Around the World and they love Scoot!

Easy Movement Baseball Game

Divide class into 2 teams and let them choose team names.

Next have a kid from each team choose a number between 1-10 and the closest number is first at bat.

Hold up a card with a math fact on it and student, Student A, will answer it. If they answer correctly, they go to 1st base and the next student, Student B, from the same team is up to bat.

If Student B answers correctly they go to 1st base and the student on 1st goes to 2nd base.

Team 1 keepa playing until they make it to home base. I keep a tally of the runs on a whiteboard in front of the classroom. They continue to play until they get an out for answering incorrectly. If a kid answers incorrectly then it is the next team’s turn.

Another way to play is once a team makes it to home base and gets a point, then you let the other team up to bat, so it moves quicker. We continue to play at least until every student has had a turn.

We have digital math fact Boom Cards that you could use for this by projecting them on your SMARTboard. The kids love coming up to the smart board to solve the math problems.

  1. Addition Boom Cards
  2. Counting Boom Cards
  3. Missing Numbers Boom Cards
  4. Uncover the Picture Boom Cards

Try a few cards for free HERE!


CLICK HERE if you haven’t already clicked on that link to get your FREE Scoot game with 5 days of activities to introduce, practice, and assess!

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