Do you use partner math games and centers in your classroom? I do! I love watching my first graders interact with one another while they play their math games. Some of them get such a serious look on their face while they are playing. It makes me smile to watch how hard they concentrate on the games!
When we think of math games and math centers, we almost immediately think about the typical math concepts: addition games, subtraction games, multiplication and division games, fractions, place value….I could go on and on. All of these game topics are important – they reinforce the standards we teach within our lessons and in our small groups. Math games provide our students with the opportunity to practice these skills on a more independent level. The games also let students apply the skills in a concrete manner. Plus, games are FUN!
The math games and centers in my classroom are on a one month rotation. At the beginning of every month, we learn our new games. I have four kinds of partner games each month and four “independent math games” that students choose from each day when they are not meeting with me for their small groups. (We also have computers and tablets as options, too.) You can read more about how I run my math workshop time by reading the blog post HERE. You can find my monthly, theme-based math games by clicking HERE.
Each month, in addition to our standards-based games, I always try to incorporate a strategy-based game into our routine. What is a strategy based game? It’s a game that requires students to use problem solving skills, evaluate a player’s potential next move, and most importantly….THINK! Students must do a lot of THINKING in order to “win” or “conquer” the game.
Why are games that simply target “thinking skills” important?
Did you know children are not born with the ability to think critically? It must be something that is fostered, taught, and practiced throughout their everyday lives. It must be weaved into every activity, every lesson, every task we ask students to participate in within our classrooms. If our students are not doing their own thinking, we are robbing them of achieving their greatest potential as learners.
So what are some games that we can use as “strategy games” for students?
Did you know that the game Tic Tac Toe could essentially be a strategy game?!
YES! It’s THAT simple! Think about it. Playing Tic Tac Toe requires the student to have SOME kind of strategy in order to win. Yes, to some degree it is often “luck,” but it also requires you to think ahead and predict your partner’s move in order to make key decisions.
During the month of April, we introduced a new strategy game into our classroom:
The Tricky Triangle Game!
You know this game – you played it as a kid! As I was having breakfast with a friend at Cracker Barrel (pancakes….yum!), I noticed The Tricky Triangle Game sitting on the table.
“Why haven’t I thought of that before?!” I asked myself. I purchased two copies of the game in their gift shop before heading home. The Tricky Triangle Game is now an absolute FAVORITE strategy game in our first grade classroom. The kids LOVE it!
I love it, too. It requires my students to implement problem solving skills and make decisions based on their partner’s last move. It took some kids a LONG time to understand that they could only jump over ONE peg during their turn. I played the game with the students in small groups before it became a part of our math tubs after spring break.
The object of the game is to continue to jump over one peg at a time, until you eliminate as many pegs as you can from the triangle board. This sounds easy, but if you’ve ever played this game with your parents or a friend, you know it is not as easy as it looks! It requires a lot of STRATEGY and THINKING skills.
Oh how I wish I could show you pictures of their little faces! I had to crop their sweet faces out of these pictures, but please imagine my little first graders faces with looks of COMPLETE CONCENTRATION and FOCUS as they carefully considered each move they made throughout the game. #bestillmyteacherheart
I also love this strategy game because it can be used as a partner game AND as an independent game. Strategy games are perfect for “Fast Finishers.” To play with a partner, the kids took turns jumping over a peg and collecting the peg they jumped over. The partner with the most pegs at the end of the game (when no moves were left to play) WINS! Then, they simple re-loaded the game and played again!
The game is also small enough to fit into multiple sized tubs and containers. The best part about the organization and storage of this game? It is NO PREP! Simply purchase the game, throw it in a container, and voila! An instant, thinking-rich, strategy-based game for your math centers!
You can find the game at Cracker Barrel restaurants or on Amazon, of course! The link below will take you straight to the Tricky Triangle Game, which you can purchase from your couch and your pajamas. 🙂 If you buy the copies at Cracker Barrel, my teacher-tip is to take a sharpie and cross off the word “dumb” on the wooden game board haha! Why is that on there haha?! You can see in the picture above that the word has been crossed off. 😉
If you’re looking for independent math games that can be differentiated for your students, you might enjoy checking out my Write On/Wipe Off Math Games and Centers pack. It contains easy to prep games for the entire school year!Use the picture below to save this idea on Pinterest!