Free Early Elementary Math Games

The Engineer hates doing math problems – on paper, that is.  I can usually get some real life math going (you had 5 cars, your brother took 2, how many are left?) but it’s not enough to make a big impact.  He gets impatient and says it’s boring.  So what do I do when my kid refuses to do math?

I get sneaky.

Right now we’re working on addition, subtraction, and subitizing (quickly recognizing how many by sight alone.)  He’s doing place values up to 1000 on an app, so I’m adding that in as well.   Math is certainly not his favorite, although he does well with the more abstract things like the concept of 0, negative numbers, and basic algebra.  Go figure.

He doesn’t like practicing things.  I’m guessing that if he doesn’t get the concept immediately, he doesn’t want to work for it.  I’m a bit flummoxed on solutions for that.  “Here kid, let’s go do something boring and repetitious so that you can learn how to struggle and overcome adversity in life!”  Seriously?  There has to be a way to challenge him and let him struggle without him getting frustrated and quitting.  I haven’t found that fine line yet, but we’re working on it.

Let me share some of my projects that I’ve been working on to help the Engineer feel more comfortable with math.

Ok, brief break on math.

I just watched the Antares rocket launch from NASA’s VA launch site – wow!  That was really cool, and less time lag than was listed.  Isn’t it great when you get to see something so amazing with your own eyes?  The Engineer is at scouts right now, so his dad said they would take a break and go see it too.  Amazing stuff!  Missed it?  Go here to see the replay.

Back to your math post, sorry about the interruption.

So…what’s my strategy for practicing math when nothing but apps work?  Games!  Lots of simple, one-sheet-of-paper board games.  Doesn’t have to be fancy.

The Engineer loves anything that requires rolling dice, so most of the games I’ve come up with involve rolling two dice and adding or subtracting the numbers.  They’re turn based, so it re-enforces those patience issues that we’ve been having.  I even pretend to have trouble adding them up sometimes and ask him to help me when it’s my turn.

About the games: click on the thumbnail to open a PDF that you can print.  Please, for personal use only, and copyright applies.  It’s my stuff precious, all mine!  (unlike Gollum I know how to share.)

The fish in the pond game is a simple addition or subtraction game.  Roll 2 dice, add or subtract the numbers, and use a counter to cover up the fish with the correct number.  The person with the most fish wins.  fishing-board-game

I came up with a tens frame project but once we started using it I realized I messed it up.  So here’s the new, updated version complete with a set of flash cards that you can use for fast number recognition challenges.  Not sure how to use a tens frame?  Go to this YouTube video and get the basic idea.  I’m trying to get a firm grasp of the basics before we go bouncing off to something weird like algebra.     robot-tens-frame

The Even/Odd board game also uses dice.  Depending on your player’s level of expertise, roll 1 or 2 dice and declare the number even or odd.  Move your counter to the next available matching spot.  The first player to the finish wins the game.  I wanted to combine shapes with numbers for this game because the Engineer still doesn’t understand this relationship.odd-even-board-game


I took a shortcut and printed this game out from – a math game with multiple numbers that you combine to get the correct number.  And it has ice cream!  Kids love ice cream, right?  It was a hit, but it took a lot of help.

Because the Engineer is interested in place values, I was struggling to explain to him that it’s not just a string of numbers.  I found this awesome printable at Kids Activities Blog that shows how the numbers build on each other.  The 1 in 1000 isn’t just a 1 at the front, which is how the Engineer was saying it.

Is your child past the addition and subtraction stage?  Do you need more ideas?  Check out Cait’s blog at My Little Poppies for her list of great math games for more advanced kids.


My next big project: making some reading games using the letter dice that I just ordered.  Should be fun!





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