Mental Math Games

Instructor: Leah Salyer
Mental math can be a difficult concept for some students to learn. Regular practice with games is a great way to teach students how to learn mental math which they will often use as adults. Read on to learn about different types of games you can use in your classroom.

Round to the Nearest 100

Split students into teams of 2 and supply each team with flash cards. The cards should consist of a series of numbers for students to round to the nearest 100. For example, the cards could include numbers like 295, 312 or 458. Students will work together with the flash cards to quiz each other. One student will hold a card up and let the other student make their guess. Once the cards have all been cycled through, it will be the next student's turn. This lesson on rounding could be a great lead in to the rounding game. It includes a brief review of how we round and a fun rounding exercise for students.

Missing Numbers - Hundreds Chart

One way for young students to practice mental math is to use a hundreds chart. You will typically introduce young students to the hundreds chart at the beginning of the school year, often making it a regular activity in your students' daily routine. For the missing numbers game, you could have students use a pocket chart to fill in the numbers that you have removed. You may choose to remove as many as 10 or more numbers or as little as 3 or 4 before the game begins. You will call students to identify the missing numbers to place on the chart. For example, the first line could have the numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10. Students would need to identify that the line is missing the numbers 3, 6 and 8 by finding the right cards and placing them in the correct pockets on the chart. This game can be done as a whole class activity until the entire chart is filled in from 1-100, or this could be done as a daily routine where only 5 or so numbers are filled in each day.

Number of the Day

Split your class into three teams for this game. You will choose a number of the day and ask your students to come up with math problems associated with that number. This could include math problems where the chosen number is the answer or where it's a part of a number sentence. Each team will send one representative to the board to write problems. Give your students one minute to write down as many problems as possible. Then, tally up the number of correct problems for each student and keep a record of it. Go through several rounds until you get through all of the students on each team. Keep tallying correct answers with each round. At the end of the game, the team with the most correct answers wins. This game can be modified for a wide range of age groups and math concepts. Take a look at this video lesson for kids on multiplication and division and mental math. You can use this video as a supplemental resource for your students as it offers a brief overview of what mental math is and includes strategies for using it when multiplying and dividing.

Baseball Math

Begin this game by splitting your class into two teams. Desks can be used as the positions in a baseball game, such as first, second and third base. Choose one team to start. You, as the teacher, will take the place of the pitcher by calling out a number to the batting team. You will give the first student a number, such as 10, and that student will need to come up with a number problem that ends in that number. Examples could include, 5 + 5, 15 - 5 or 20 - 10. If the student tells you a correct number sentence, they may move to first base. If the same student tells you another number problem that is also true, they may move to the next base and so on until they move through all the bases. Once three students answer incorrectly or all the students on one team move through the bases, it is the other team's turn. Check out this video lesson for students on mental math to enhance this activity. You may wish to show this video to students before or after playing the baseball game to reinforce mental math for addition and subtraction with extra strategies and instruction.

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