Learning Addition or Multiplication Playing Games

I confess that I am not much of a math student, but that doesn't mean I do not try to be the best math teacher I can. In my multiple-disabilities, self-contained classroom, I am the students' sole source of match instruction. I take every opportunity I can to learn about math, math techniques, and ways to teach math that eschews worksheets. I work very hard for my students because they deserve my very best efforts. And math should not be boring.  

By that I mean I am always looking for new, creative, and interesting ways to teach math concepts. I recently attended a two-session math seminar hosted by our local State Support Team and featuring math professor Ky Leigh Davis from Muskingum University and learned about some fantastic tools that I can add to my toolbox. Ideas shared during that seminar inspired me to come up with my own ideas. This post is about one such idea. 

This quick math game I invented for my kids in order to learn either addition or multiplication. So depending upon which skill you want to teach, it serves both purposes. 

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What you see is two separate number grids. Both grids contain the numbers 1 through 9. We intentionally mixed the colors. It is not necessary to do so, and one can use more than two colors if you like. You could use the different colors to differentiate (notice all our lower numbers are one color and the higher numbers are a different color) or simply to make the game more interesting. 

Another important aspect is to make certain the numbers are mixed up on the board. It is probably unhelpful to put the numbers in order; although, it might not matter at all. It just depends upon your preference. 

After you have assembled the two boards, laminate them. This will preserve the boards for many uses (especially since the game will be played on the floor). You can make the boards as big as you like. Ours are about 18 inches square. We also used pre-manufactured numbers as opposed to trying to write or draw them in freehand. I think it makes the game more uniform and appealing–plus, the numbers are big for those who may have visual impairments. 

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After the boards are assembled, it is up to you how you will play. Again, it can be either addition or multiplication. (I suppose the game can also be used for division and subtraction, but the number boards will have to be adjusted accordingly.) Make a 'plus' (addition) sign and a multiplication sign to place in between the two boards in order to remind the students during the game what sort of math equations they will be working with. Or, as a way to vary the game: make a stack of cards that feature addition (+) and multiplication (x) signs. When a student comes up for their turn, they must choose a card. The sign on the card will determine if the student is to perform an addtion or a multiplication problem.

Now, originally, I thought about having the students throw darts at the boards in order to choose the two numbers they would add or multiply. Then I got to thinking…hmmm…Special Education…darts….nah; bad idea. So I opted for bean bags. The gist is this: the students toss the beanbags, the beanbags (or whatever you use) land on two numbers (one on each board) and the students either add them or multiply them together. (I actually got the idea from a game I played as a kid called 'Toss-Across'.)

Here's a fun variation: do both addition and multiplication. Let the student choose which calculation they wish to make and award points based on difficulty (if, in fact, you make it into a team based competition.)

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This is a simple task that you can use as a group or even for individual work. The kids are learning addition facts and/or multiplication facts while playing a game. The kicker is, they are having fun and learning math at the same time. These foundational facts are so important to the students' future ability to master higher order mathematics that really this is not just as task for special education students. This is a game that anyone can use or play in any classroom, at just about any level. 

Have fun. Be sure to let me know how you use it so that I can add to my own toolbox. 

PS–this is also a great way to help the children exert some gross motor skills, practice mental math, and learn about social cooperation during game play. That's what I love about building games like this: so much can be accomplished during the course of one game. Good luck.

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