If you could choose between rote memorization or playing a game, which one would you choose? The game, hands down. The instant a “game” is mentioned, kids have instant buy-in. We are competing with Fortnight, Minecraft and other super engaging video games. If you aren’t using games in your classroom, you would be amazed at how quickly your kids will grasp a new concept when you even mention the word “game.”

Since 3rd graders are my current jam, I am going to introduce a new (and my first) series on my blog that introduces 3 levels of games that you can play with your students to teach a 3rd grade concept. These could easily be transferred to other grade levels, but I’m going to focus mainly on 3rd grade for my examples since that is what I teach. A lot of these games are based off a professional development that I attended this summer, so not all of them are ones that I’ve tried. I plan on sharing what I want to try with my kiddos while providing you with the ideas to try on your own students!

The 3 levels of the games will be based on the amount or teacher prep time or materials needed in order to play the game.

  1. Little to no teacher prep
  2. Some printing or teacher prep
  3. More teacher prep needed, including objects and/or printing

Fact Building Around the Room

Purpose: Students will be able to see that they can build a number using many strategies, including multiplication, addition, pictures, and more. This is a game I would use after introducing the concept of multiplication in 3rd grade.

For the first game featured here on this awesome teacher blog, the game is a level 1 on the scale of teacher prep. For the Fact Building Around the Room game, you will need a couple materials that I have assumed are in every classroom just like salt and pepper is in every kitchen. You will need an anchor chart per the number of groups you have. So if you want to have groups of 4 and you have 24 kiddos, you will need 6 pieces of anchor chart paper. If you don’t have anchor chart paper, you could also just have a paper on the table with the goal number, but students may need to write smaller.

You will also need different colored sticky notes for each group OR you can opt out of the sticky note option and use a different colored marker, crayon, or colored pencil for each group.

Set up the students

Split your students up into groups of 3 or 4 students and give each group an anchor chart with a number on it and a different colored marker for each group. The special colored marker is important for scoring! If you don’t have markers or crayons to use, this is where you could use different colored sticky notes for each group.

How to Play – Round 1

For round 1 of the game, set a timer for 3 minutes. Students at each group have 3 minutes to come up with as many ways as they can to build the number on their anchor chart. For this example, I’m going to use the number 15. Group 1 comes up with the following: 5+5+5; 14+1; 10+5; 20-5; 3×5. Each way would be written on a different sticky note or written on the anchor chart paper in their special colored marker.

Round 2

When 3 minutes are up, start round 2 by having students go as a group to the next anchor chart around the room and repeat the process, but they cannot repeat the same number composition as a previous group. Each round is 3 minutes long. So for example, Group 2 is now at the number 15 chart and Group 1 went to the 45 chart. Group 2 writes the following: 3+3+3+3+3; 5×3; 7+8; 16-1; and an array with 3 rows of 5 dots in each row.

Continue playing until…

Continue the 3 minute rounds until the 1st group is back at their original anchor chart. This time, give students another 3 minutes to review other students strategies and see if they can add anything else. Throughout each round, students are starting to see other kiddos’ strategies and may even start using them by the end of the last round on different numbers. By this round, it’s probably getting a little bit tricky to come up with new ways to show numbers!

Who won?

The winner is the group that contributed the most ideas to all the anchor charts. This is where the colored markers or colored sticky notes comes in handy. Students can just count their sticky notes or their ideas in their group color.

I don’t limit the students to only showing numbers with numbers. I encourage them to create pictures, arrays, organized dots, etc. That’s what we want them to do on their working paper during assessments right? If they can’t figure it out, draw a picture, try a new strategy, do something!

You could take a picture of each anchor chart and then print the picture off for them to glue into their Math notebooks.

Any sort of movement in my classroom is a win and this is a super easy game to put together. This is a replacement for reviewing and rote memorization of math facts. This game provides an opportunity for your lower level kiddos who are not quite ready to grasp the concept of multiplication. They can build any number any way they can, but they can also see other ways that their peers are building numbers without feeling embarrassed for not know the facts on their own.

Let me know how your students like this game! I’m so excited to play this with my kiddos next fall! I will add photos soon for examples!