5 Preschool Math Games
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?”
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"5 Preschool Math Games"
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