Games are an important part of the elementary school math curriculum that I develop and teach. Through different games students learn and reinforce a variety of skills, ranging from arithmetic to spacial reasoning to logic.
In my classroom, I have many store-bought favorites: SET, SWISH, Tiny Polka Dot, Q-bits, and many games by The Brainy Band (HurriCount, Numberloor, TraffiCARS, Multibloom, Splitissimo, …), to name a few.
However, a number of games that we play require nothing more than a printed game board, a deck of cards or some counters. I have found a wonderful collection of such games in the “Math you can play” series by Denise Gaskins.
There are three books in the series: Counting & Number Bonds, Addition & Subtraction, and Multiplication & Fractions. Many of the games in the first two books can be played with kindergartners but also have sophisticated logic and strategy elements that can be enjoyed by much older students. I use games from the third book primarily with grades 3 and up.
Here are 2 pictures of my 3rd grade class playing a game called Thirty-one that I learned about from the Addition & Subtraction book:
This is a 2 player game but we first played it in teams. For setup, you just lay out the Ace through 6 of each suit in rows. Then the players (teams) take turns flipping cards upside down and adding the values to the running total of all flipped cards (Ace has a value of 1). The goal is to get exactly 31 or force the other team to go over 31.
After the first game, the students realized that making 24 is good, and after the second game they noticed that the same thing is true of 17. I then split them up into pairs to play individually and they all made more discoveries for themselves.
We had a great class discussion about the game but were still far from figuring out the “full” optimal strategy. I hope to come back to the game a bit later in the year.
Some of my other favorites from the books are Number Train, Snugglenumber, Tiguous, The Product Game, and Ultimate Multiple Tic-Tac-Toe. Most of the game descriptions have the history of the game as well as a number of variations. The books have contributed and inspired many wonderful additions to my curriculum.