Arithmetic games – is that boring?

Translated from this post by Jane Kats.  I very much subscribe to this philosophy when teaching math to kindergartners.  As for the games mentioned, I love playing many of them throughout elementary school.

In our math classes, we do a lot of geometric activities, play logic games, move around, but you can’t say that we don’t do arithmetic at all.

What we actually do very little of is calligraphy with numbers. We don’t write much – instead, we draw diagrams of various structures.

But we do some counting during every class.

We don’t write numbers in our notebooks – we count on our fingers, count steps, count animals on cards or holes in Numicon frames.

To master counting within ten we actively use our fingers,

and card games such as HurriCount.


The condition: there must be fewer hedgehogs than frogs. What cards need to be hidden, what needs to change in the open cards to meet the condition?


We actively use Numicon – counting frames with holes


you can clearly see that two odds add up to an even number!


snap cubes


the game “Many-Many”


we also like base 10 blocks


Or we make batches of 10 matches or 10 craft sticks (using rubber bands).  Or we build towers of 10.  It’s much easier for children to understand tens and hundreds that way!

Number twister for the fingers.


You can practice addition or multiplication.

Put your fingers on two circles so that the sum is 19.  And now, same question, but you can’t use the number 9!

We also use dice a lot: roll a die and glue that many stickers onto a page, or draw that many petals on a flower, or color in that many cars on a train.

Our favorite card games include “Fruktazh” and “Kotosovy”, where you have to quickly count and recognize quanities (these games, like HurriCount and Many-Many are made by the Russian company “The Brainy Band” but are not currently available in English).

We also practice counting things that you can’t touch, for example “meow-meow” means touching your cheek twice like a kitty and “kar-kar-kar” means wave your arms three times like a bird.

In many of our active games, we like to start by saying that the kids have to stop (or hide) when the leader says, for example, “eight”. Then, when the leader says “twelve”. Then, after the leader says 26, but counts by twos. And only then will we choose one of the kids as a leader, and suggest that those who know how, count by twos.  
What are your favorite games with counting and mental math?

About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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