There’s no way around it: kids really do have to memorize their basic math facts before they can move on to more advanced math. Flashcards are the classic practice method, but they’re really not all that much fun. That’s why we’ve rounded up these more engaging activities. They reinforce the same concepts, but kids will really enjoy them!
1. Face off in Dice War
Dice games are fantastic in the classroom! With this one, kids practice their addition facts and get a little work with subitizing too. The concept is so simple: Each player rolls the dice and adds up their numbers. The highest sum wins that round. Use this game for subtraction and multiplication too.
Learn more: Miss Giraffe’s Class
2. Assemble math facts grab bags
Fill a variety of bags with collections of small objects. Kids grab a handful from two different bags, then count and add up the results. Be sure they write it all down to get practice at setting up equations. (Also, try this with subtraction and multiplication facts.)
Learn more: Susan Jones Teaching
3. Play Shut the Box
This game has been played for hundreds of years, but it’s a fun and sneaky way to practice addition facts fluency! The goal is to “close” each of the numbers in the box from one to nine by rolling the dice. For instance, if a player rolls 11, they may close 1, 2, 3, and 5, as these add up to 11. If no numbers are available to add up to the dice total, play passes to the next player and continues until someone finally “shuts the box” by closing the last available number. You can play this game as people have for centuries with a specially designed box. You don’t need the box, though; simply have kids write out the numbers 1 through 9 and cross them out as they play.
4. Play math facts war
Each student flips two cards, then adds them (or subtracts, or multiplies). The person with the highest total keeps both cards. For a tiebreaker, flip another card! See more rules at the link.
Learn more: Math Facts War/Creative Family Fun
5. Turn an egg carton into a problem generator
Using an egg carton, have students write the numbers 1-12 in the bottom of each depression. Place two marbles inside the egg carton and close the lid. Shake the egg carton, open the top, and then add, subtract, or multiply whichever two numbers the marbles have landed on.
6. Assemble a domino puzzle
Dominos are perfect for math facts practice! Keep it simple by pulling a domino from a bag, then adding, subtracting, or multiplying the two numbers.
For even more fun, print the free puzzles at the link below. Then start filling in the puzzle one piece at a time by placing a domino that adds up to the number shown in each rectangle. The trick is that regular domino rules still apply, so each number must touch another domino with the same number on that end.
Learn more: Games 4 Gains
7. Circle math facts in a Number Search
These number search puzzles are harder than they look! First, kids complete the addition facts. Then, they search for those equations in the puzzle. Get three free puzzles at the link, where you can purchase more if you like them.
Learn more: The Sprinkle Topped Teacher
8. Use flashcards to play Fifteen in a Row
When it comes down to it, flashcards are still one of the best ways to practice fact fluency, but a game can at least make them more fun. The goal is to lay out 15 flashcards in a row by the total of their sums (or differences, products, or dividends), from smallest to largest. Learn how it’s played at the link.
Learn more: The Measured Mom
9. Make a math facts practice wheel
All it takes is paper plates, glue, and a marker to help your students learn their math facts. Up the fun factor by having students decorate their plates any way their imagination can dream up!
Learn more: Math Facts Wheel/Creative Family Fun
10. Whack a ball to subtract
You know your elementary math students are going to love this! Build your own whack-a-mole 10 frame with a shoebox and ping pong balls. Then, have kids whack the balls to practice their subtraction facts. So fun!
Learn more: Planning Playtime
11. Jump up your math facts practice
Lay out a grid like the one shown that has the answers to whatever set of math flashcards you’re currently working with. (This teacher used masking tape; you could also do sidewalk chalk on the playground.) Two players face off, one on each side of the board. Show the flashcard, and kids race to be the first to jump to the correct square with both feet inside the lines. Get all the rules at the link below.
Learn more: Teaching and Tapas
12. Run a flashcard race
Tape a series of flashcards to the floor and challenge kids to see who can correctly make their way from start to finish the fastest. They can call out the answers or write them down, but they have to get it right before they move on. Kids can race side by side or work independently to beat their own best time.
Learn more: There’s Just One Mommy
13. Draw Waldorf math facts flowers
This is a creative way to teach math facts. Start by drawing the center of a flower and write any number 1–9 in the middle. Next, draw 12 petals around the center, labeling them 1–12. Last, draw another 12 petals and write the sum or product of the center number and the petal adjacent to the new petal.
Learn more: Multicultural Motherhood
14. Catch a math beach ball
Beach balls are so much fun in the classroom. Scribble numbers all over one with a Sharpie, then toss it to a student. Wherever their thumbs land, they add (or subtract, or multiply) those two numbers together before tossing the ball to the next student.
Learn more: Saddle Up For Second Grade
15. Practice facts by stacking cups
We’re not sure why, but kids simply love stacking cups. Label yours with math problems and answers, then have kids build pyramids and towers galore!
Learn more: The Kindergarten Smorgasboard
16. Design an outdoor board game
Draw a winding path and fill the spaces with math equations. Kids roll the dice and move from space to space (have them jump, skip, or twirl to mix things up). If they get the answer right, they move to the new space. If not, their turn is over. Customizable math games like this can be used at any level.
Learn more: Look! We’re Learning
17. Compete at Math Bingo
Math facts bingo is so easy to set up and play! Give kids empty grids and ask them to write various sums, differences, products, or quotients, depending on what you’re working on. Then call out math problems and have them cover the answers. First to fill in a row wins!
Learn more: Happy Go Lucky
18. Play math facts checkers
Label a checkerboard with math facts. Play checkers as usual, following the traditional rules. The twist is, you must solve the math problem you land on!
Learn more: Teach Beside Me
19. Change your students’ names (temporarily)
This is so clever! Grab some name tags and write math facts on each. Give a tag to each of your students. For the remainder of the day, everyone will refer to each other by the answer to the equation on their tag (e.g., the student with the name tag that says 7×6 would be referred to as “42”).
Learn more: Mr. Elementary Math
20. Match up math facts
Play memory (also called “concentration”) with math facts. Get free printable cards at the link for addition facts to get you started.
Learn more: Playdough to Plato
How do you help your students practice math facts? Come share on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Looking for more? Check out all of our K-5 math resources here!