In this article for teachers, Liz Woodham describes the criteria she uses to choose mathematical games for the classroom and shares some examples from NRICH.
This article, the second in the series, looks at some different types of games and the sort of mathematical thinking they can develop.
Not all of us a bursting with creative game ideas, but there are
several ways to go about creating a game that will assist even the
busiest and most reluctant game designer.
Gillian Hatch analyses what goes on when mathematical games are
used as a pedagogic device.
This article supplies teachers with information that may be useful in better understanding the nature of games and their role in teaching and learning mathematics.
Basic strategy games are particularly suitable as starting points
for investigations. Players instinctively try to discover a winning
strategy, and usually the best way to do this is to analyse. . . .
A game for 2 players. Draw a daisy with at least 5 petals. Shade 1 or 2 petals next to each other. The winner shades the last petal.
The game uses a 3x3 square board. 2 players take turns to play,
either placing a red on an empty square, or changing a red to
orange, or orange to green. The player who forms 3 of 1 colour in a
line. . . .
A game somewhat similar to 'noughts and crosses' on a much larger
Reasoning based on this Japanese activity.
A game for 2 people that can be played on line or with pens and paper. Combine your knowledege of coordinates with your skills of strategic thinking.
A game for 2 players. This could be played outside with people instead of counters. Try to trap or escape from your opponent.
Play this well-known game against the computer where each player is
equally likely to choose scissors, paper or rock. Why not try the
Take it in turns to place a domino on the grid. One to be placed horizontally and the other vertically. Can you make it impossible for your opponent to play?
Try this version of Snap with a friend - do you know the order of
the days of the week?
Work out the fractions to match the cards with the same amount of
This is a game for two players. Can you find out how to be the first to get to 12 o'clock?
A game to be played against the computer, or in groups. Pick a 7-digit number. A random digit is generated. What must you subract to remove the digit from your number? the first to zero wins.
An interactive game for 1 person. You are given a rectangle with 50 squares on it. Roll the dice to get a percentage between 2 and 100. How many squares is this? Keep going until you get 100. . . .
An interactive game to be played on your own or with friends.
Imagine you are having a party. Each person takes it in turns to
stand behind the chair where they will get the most chocolate.
A train building game for 2 players.
A game played with a standard pack of cards.
A game for 2 players. Take turns to place a counter so that it
occupies one of the lowest possible positions in the grid. The
first player to complete a line of 4 wins.
A fun puzzle with tantrix tiles.
A card pairing game involving knowledge of simple ratio.
A shunting puzzle for 1 person. Swop the positions of the counters at the top and bottom of the board.
An ordinary set of dominoes can be laid out as a 7 by 4 magic
rectangle in which all the spots in all the columns add to 24,
while those in the rows add to 42. Try it! Now try the magic
Can you work out how to win this game of Nim? Does it matter if you go first or second?
Take it in turns to make a triangle on the pegboard. Can you block your opponent?
An interactive activity for one to experiment with a tricky tessellation
This is a game for 2 players. Each player has 4 counters each, and
wins by blocking their opponent's counters. A good follow-on from
Here is a version of the game 'Happy Families' for you to make and
Can you make the birds from the egg tangram?
A game for 1 person to develop stategy and shape and space awareness. 12 counters are placed on a board. Counters are removed one at a time. The aim is to be left with only 1 counter.
There are nasty versions of this dice game but we'll start with the nice ones...
Match the halves.
Try to stop your opponent from being able to split the piles of counters into unequal numbers. Can you find a strategy?
Hover your mouse over the counters to see which ones will be
removed. Click to remover them. The winner is the last one to
remove a counter. How you can make sure you win?
Everthing you have always wanted to do with dominoes! Some of these
games are good for practising your mental calculation skills, and
some are good for your reasoning skills.
In this game for two players, you throw two dice and find the product. How many shapes can you draw on the grid which have that area or perimeter?
A game for two players. You'll need some counters.
Try this matching game which will help you recognise different ways of saying the same time interval.
This challenge is a game for two players. Choose two numbers from the grid and multiply or divide, then mark your answer on the number line. Can you get four in a row before your partner?
In this matching game, you have to decide how long different events take.
Can you use the numbers on the dice to reach your end of the number line before your partner beats you?
The idea of this game is to add or subtract the two numbers on the dice and cover the result on the grid, trying to get a line of three. Are there some numbers that are good to aim for?
A game for 2 players. Using 2 dice, some counters and a games board, can you form a line of counters from one side of the board to the other?
A game for 2 people. Take turns placing a counter on the star. You
win when you have completed a line of 3 in your colour.
A game for two players. You'll need some counters and somewhere to draw a board.