Want to know the best-kept secret in the history of learning?
Math is fun. That's right, we said it.
And with math, fun is learning.
Parents can feel intimidated when it comes to helping their children excel in math. But the mental challenge of math is really a thrill to your little one's brain, especially when it's wrapped up in a game.
That's why we've assembled 10 fun, free math games for kids. Whether you're looking for an educational way to pass some lockdown time or want to help your children reach their full math potential, we've got the games for you.
Math games for kids in preschool
Preschoolers thrive on games that challenge them to use their newfound counting abilities. You don't need fancy technology to do this — your fingers and a few props are all you need.
1. Count the fingers
With your child, take turns holding your hands behind your back and singing, "Fingers, fingers, one two three, how many fingers do I see?" Then show your hands, displaying a few fingers on each. For example, you might show one finger on one hand and three on the other.
Your child practices counting the fingers and coming up with the correct number. Younger children love the song, and the challenge level is perfect for those who are just learning to count.
2. Can you show me?
To add another layer of challenge to the finger game, show your hands to your child while holding up a certain number of fingers. Ask the child to show you the same number on their own hands but in a different way (for instance, if you have three fingers on one hand and one on the other, they would show you two fingers on each hand).
3. Messy matching
Make a set of cards that show the numerals from one to nine (or use number blocks instead), and get out a big handful of dry beans and scatter them on the kitchen table. Show a numeral to your child and have them count the right number of beans as fast as they can.
This game not only teaches your child to subtilize (learning to recognize that a numeral refers to a specific number of real items) but with the tactile challenge of picking up beans, it's great for fine motor skills too.
Math games for elementary schoolers
Elementary schoolers have mastered basic skills like counting, and love to be challenged by playing with the numbers they've learned. Games that flex their new muscles of adding and subtracting will hold their attention!
4. Grand prix
This classic racing game from Math Playground lets you practice adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. With every problem you solve, your car gets a burst of speed. This game is perfect for children who struggle with attention — the fast pace means they'll hardly notice that they're doing math!
5. Subtraction war
All you need for this game are two players, a deck of cards, and a competitive spirit. It's like the classic game of War that we all used to play, but with an added math challenge.
Here's how to play: divide a deck of cards between the two players. Each player takes two cards from the top of their stack and lays them down, and subtracts the lower number from the higher. Whoever has the higher answer wins the round.
Don't forget to assign number values to the face cards. Usually, aces have a value of one, jacks of 11, and so forth, but have fun with it. For a fun house rule, let the youngest player pick the value of the face cards (and don't be surprised when kings are suddenly worth ten thousand million!).
This isn't just one game. Splashlearn is a free online math learning center that teaches over 350 math skills. With a free account, you get access to games full of bright colors and interactive challenges to keep your elementary schooler motivated.
For elementary schoolers who love a challenge, let them try sudoku puzzles, either on paper or online. All a sudoku requires is basic adding and subtracting, but the multi-dimensional thinking will keep kids engaged.
Math games for middle schoolers
For kids in middle school and up, math is about real-world applications. They want to know what they can do with the math they've learned.
If getting into higher-level math fills you with anxiety, try these creative challenges with your middle schooler. They're designed to remind both of you that math is just as much about thinking outside the box as it is about getting the right answer, and having fun along the way is important too.
8. If I had $1,000
Or $2,000, or $3,000, or $10,000. The goal of this game is to realistically budget a dream vacation with a specified amount of money.
Let your middle schooler dream big. What's their dream vacation? An NBA game weekend, or a week at Disney? Challenge your child to plan out all the costs for their imaginary getaway, all the way from plane tickets down to courtside snacks.
9. Would you rather?
Would you rather get $1,000 every day for a month, or $2 the first day, $4 the second day, $8 the next day, and so on for a whole month?
The inspiration for this game comes from the children's story "A Single Grain of Rice." In it, a wealthy ruler offers a peasant girl anything she wants. She asks that every day for thirty days, he gives her double the amount of rice he did the day before — starting with just a single grain.
Before long, the peasant girl has over five hundred million grains of rice, enough to feed her entire village. Middle schoolers thrive on mental challenges like these, so get creative and challenge one another to math-based "would you rather?" puzzles. Then, figure out how to work out the solutions together.
Online learning and beyond
If you enjoyed these math games for kids, you'll love Sawyer's fun and challenging in-person and interactive online classes. Contact us to find out more about booking classes for children of all ages.