5 Preschool Math Games

July 20th, 2012 by Dionna | 3 Comments
Posted in Children, Eclectic Learning, Preschoolers

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My preschooler has always loved numbers. Recently I was looking for some fun games to play to help foster that love of numbers, and I thought I would share what I found with you.

The first three games listed (Who Has More?, Close to 10, and Jump, Frog!) come from Mama Mo of Attached at the Nip – a wonderful mama and former teacher. She graciously shared a couple of PDF’s that she designed. If you like these, please stop by Attached at the Nip and tell Mama Mo thank you (and beg her to share more)!

Who Has More?

This addition game for two to three players is a version of “War,” but we call it “Who Has More?”

Materials Needed:

Number Cards


  • Place a shuffled stack of five or six sets of Number Cards in a pile in the middle.
  • Each player takes six cards but does not look at them.
  • Players take turns turning two cards face up.
  • Each player adds up the total number of stars on his/her cards.
  • The player who has the highest total gets to keep the all the cards that were presented that round. Player with the most cards at the end wins.
  • Variation 1 – Cooperative Play: Rather than making it so the player with the most cards “wins,” try making it a cooperative game – “let’s time it and see how fast we can get to the end of the deck.” Or instead of having the cards go to a person, have two stacks – one where the highest total was 10 or below, one 11 or above – see which stack has more cards at the end. Having a “winner” always makes the game more about the competition than the adding, and it could detract from the experience for some kids.
  • Variation 2 – For New Learners of Addition: You can take the higher digits out of the deck and only play with the numbers your child is ready for.
  • Variation 3 – Dice Play: Another version of this game is to use dice or dot cubes (large non-gambling-grade dice basically, which can be made by drawing dice configurations of dots on any cubed object). Roll two dot cubes per player and see who has the larger total. Counting up (see below) is also useful here.

The symbols on the number cards are crucial for number-learners, because they allow the children to actually count the symbols to arrive at their answer. You can encourage math language at this point too. “So you have five triangles and four triangles. How many do you have all together? Yep, nine. Five plus four equals nine.”

When you first start, your child will have to start from one and count all the symbols each time you ask him for the total, even if only a few seconds have elapsed from the last time he told you. Eventually you’ll be able to teach him counting up. Counting up is when you start with the largest number and count up from there. So if you have an eight and a four you’d say “eight . . . nine, ten, eleven, twelve,” instead of counting from one to twelve.

Close to 10

Materials Needed:

Number Cards (printable)

Close to 10 Games (printable)

Snap cubes or other counting help

Number line from 1 – 10 (printable)


  • Each player has a stack of two or three sets of number cards and a pile of snap cubes.
  • Each player turns up two number cards, then puts the cubes on the Close to 10 worksheet line to represent the numbers (1 cube + 1 cube = 2 cubes) Variation for children learning to write – have them write the numbers on the worksheet.
  • Then, each player uses a number line to determine how far away their total is from ten. The goal is to get as close to ten as possible.
  • Variation 1 – Turn Up More Cards: Once your child understands the game and is ready for a new challenge, have her turn up four cards at a time and pick the ones that will be the closest to ten.
  • Variation 2 – Subtraction: Turn over two cards and subtract the lower from the higher number. Try to get close to 0.

Jump, Frog!

Materials Needed:

Two clothes pins – one red, one green

Number line from 1 – 20 (printable)

One toy frog (or any animal, just change the name of the game!)


  • Clip the green clothes pin under a number and the red one under another. Put the green frog on top of the number where the green clothes pin is located.
  • Ask your child to estimate how many jumps it will take to get from the green pin to the red one.
  • Then have him jump the frog to the other number, counting as you go. The trickiest part of this game is getting the student to understand that the frog starts on the green pin number and the first jump is “one.” For example, after a few rounds where we started on zero, move the green pin to 5 and the red to 10. Since the frog STARTS at 5, 6 is the first jump.

Be sure to use math language in the discussion. “So, five plus five jumps equals ten?”

  • Variation 1 – Subtraction: Have the frog jump backwards.

Give Away

Materials Needed:1

Five objects that are the same or similar for each player (5 coins, 5 marbles, 5 keys, 5 rocks). For one player they should all be the same, but different from the other players. The goal is to give all your pieces away.


  • Player says how many pieces they have. Then they roll a die.
  • Players give away as many as they rolled – except on a 6 they give away nothing. Choose one other player you are going to give your blocks to. The first player to give all their pieces away wins!

Good questions to ask include “How many will you have left? How many will I have? If you have 4, how many have you given away? I can give back 4 blue, how many red do I need to put in?” Work on counting on and subitizing. Subitizing is recognizing an amount by looking – for example, asking: “Can you tell how many blue beads you have just by looking?” Try arranging the pieces in common patterns, such as on dice or dominoes. Ask about strategy and try to get players to think about giving to those with least.

Tens Go Fish

This addition game asks players to find pairs of cards that add up to 10. It might be helpful to play a traditional game of Go Fish with your child first, so they understand how to make pairs of numbers.

Materials Needed:

A deck of cards with the face cards and jokers removed (Aces = 1).


  • Deal 5 or 7 cards to each player.
  • Players look at their hands to see if they have any pairs that add up to 10 (4 + 6 or 8 + 2, for example). Players lay their pairs to the side.
  • Players take turns asking other players for cards to make pairs that add up to 10.
  • Play until someone runs out of cards. If you don’t want to have a “winner,” you could draw cards on each turn so that you always have at least 5 cards in your hand.
  1. I found the games Give Away and Tens Go Fish in this PDF. There are several other games listed for older children.

3 Responses to:
"5 Preschool Math Games"

  1. Love these ideas!

  2. Melodie   bfmom

    Great ideas pre-kindergarden! Thanks!

  3. Thank you for the shout-out, and I’m glad the games are working for you! I just thought of another great math-concept activity. It’s not a game, but it’s an important way to teach the concept of place value to young children.

    Number Line

    ~roll of adding machine tape (can be found at an office supply store)
    ~clothes pin or cork-board pin
    ~neon colored drinking straws
    ~rubber bands
    ~3 cups or containers (large enough to hold the straws) labeled “ones” “tens” and “hundreds”
    ~a poster sized 100s chart (can be purchased at a teacher store, or made from posterboard)

    You can start making the number line on any given day, or wait for a special occasion like your child’s birthday.

    Pin up a big strip of the adding machine tape with the roll still attached at one side, so it can be lengthened later. Write (or have your child write)the number 1, and place a colored straw in the ones cup. For the next nine days, write the number of the day in the same color marker and put the same color straw in the ones cup.

    After the tenth day, bundle the straws with a rubber band and move it over to the tens cup. Start day 11 with a new color marker on the adding machine tape and a new color of straws for the ones cup.

    Keep going until you’ve reached your goal number (100 or 365 or whatever meets the needs of your learner), with each group of tens being a different color from the previous one.

    You can also mark the fives and tens with a circle around them, or a square, in a different color. Just make sure the fives have one symbol and the tens another.

    Important concepts:

    When you get above ten, point out to your learner that to *write* the number 11 we make two ones next to each other, but eleven is *made of* a ten and a one. Likewise we write twenty-two as two twos together, but it’s made of twenty and two.

    Count the number of straws in a bundle (10) and compare to a row of the 100s chart.

    Let your learner count from one each day until they’re comfortable with the concept, then ask them to count by fives or tens. They can do this using the straws, the number line, or both.

    Ask questions. “What will we do with our number line today?” “What do you think comes after 38? Can you find it on the number line?”

    The important thing is place value, not writing the numerals. If your learner needs help, give it! It’s ok to write the numbers, as long as your learner is involved. And they love putting the straws in the cups!

    Let your child play with the bundles and straws, counting as much as they desire.

    I used this to teach first graders (6-7 year olds) about place value. It will also work with older learners who need kinetic activities to learn about math, or with younger learners who are ready for a challenge.

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