Fun Math Games for 1st Grade

Instructor: Jessica Keys
For a first grader, tackling the foundations of math may seem a little intimidating, but bringing these concepts into play time can help squash those worries. Read on for some fun game ideas that can be enjoyed as a classroom or in small groups.

Tally-O (Addition Bingo)

This math game works just like the classic, but it integrates basic addition into play:

  • Give each student a game card with a 25-square grid. In every square, write an addition sequence (such as '8 + 2') that adds up to a different number, no higher than 20.
  • As a caller draws numbers, students check their cards, putting a marker on any square with a sum that matches the called number.
  • When a player has four markers in a row on their card (horizontally, vertically or diagonally), they shout 'Tally-O!'; if all four sums are correct, they win!

This game can also be geared towards subtraction, and it can easily incorporate larger numbers. Have students watch the lessons on addition, subtraction and arithmetic with whole numbers to get geared up for this game.

Swap-a-Round

This swapping game covers the Common Core concepts of addition, subtraction and place values. To prepare, give each student an index card, then have them divide a large piece of paper into three columns, with each column labeled for 'Hundreds', 'Tens' and 'Ones'.

  • Students begin by writing a 3-digit number on their card.
  • Next, they fill their columns with counter tokens (such as pompoms, buttons or dry beans) that match the hundreds, tens and ones places in their 3-digit number.
  • Finally, each student swaps index cards with another student; this is the new amount they need to have in their columns! Students may need to either add or subtract counters to get the correct value.

For those learning the ropes of these tricky place values, this Study.com lesson on number sense and arithmetic covers the main points and engages students with a fun, short video and brief quiz.

Tic-Tac-Time

A game for two players or teams! On a large sheet of paper, create a tic-tac-toe style board and spread it out on the floor; each square features a different number represented as minutes, such as :00, :30, :15, or even a phrase like half past (...). Then, prepare a pair of six-sided dice and a drawing of a 'hands free' clock face (not numbered!) on an easily erasable surface, such as the chalkboard or whiteboard.

  • One team tosses a beanbag where they want to place their X or O.
  • The team then has to roll the two dice. The sum that pops up will be the hour that goes with the minutes written in their square. (Note: Since it's impossible to roll a 1 with two dice, try adding a wildcard rule, e.g., if you roll two of the same number, you can either pick their sum OR use the number 1 instead.)
  • The team wins the square by correctly drawing their hour and minutes as hands on the pre-prepared clock face.
  • The game continues between the two teams until one wins three squares in a line.

Start this game of with the lesson on telling time to the minute, and make sure students understand the concept by using the 5-question quiz associated with the lesson.

This simple game can be reworked to cover other Common Core subjects, such as geometry. For example, instead of minute values, write the name of a geometric shape or feature (such as obtuse angle or line segment) in each square. Now in order to earn the square, students have to correctly draw or describe this geometric shape. For further inspiration, a fun overview of these topics and more can be found in Study.com's collection of lessons on line segments and geometric solids.

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