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.
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.
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.
This article, the second in the series, looks at some different types of games and the sort of mathematical thinking they can develop.
Gillian Hatch analyses what goes on when mathematical games are
used as a pedagogic device.
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. . . .
An old game but lots of arithmetic!
In this game for two players, the aim is to make a row of four coins which total one dollar.
A game for 2 people using a pack of cards Turn over 2 cards and try
to make an odd number or a multiple of 3.
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.
An interactive activity for one to experiment with a tricky tessellation
Use your addition and subtraction skills, combined with some strategic thinking, to beat your partner at this game.
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.
Take it in turns to make a triangle on the pegboard. Can you block
Play this well-known game against the computer where each player is
equally likely to choose scissors, paper or rock. Why not try the
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.
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?
A game somewhat similar to 'noughts and crosses' on a much larger
A game for 2 people. Use your skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to blast the asteroids.
A game for 2 players. This could be played outside with people instead of counters. Try to trap or escape from your opponent.
There are nasty versions of this dice game but we'll start with the nice ones...
Reasoning based on this Japanese activity.
Can you work out how to win this game of Nim? Does it matter if you go first or second?
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.
This is a challenging game of strategy for two players with many interesting variations.
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.
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. . . .
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
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
A shunting puzzle for 1 person. Swop the positions of the counters at the top and bottom of the board.
Can you make the birds from the egg tangram?
In this game, you can add, subtract, multiply or divide the numbers
on the dice. Which will you do so that you get to the end of the
number line first?
Here is a version of the game 'Happy Families' for you to make and
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. . . .
A game for 2 players. Practises subtraction or other maths
A fun puzzle with tantrix tiles.
Have a go at this game which involves throwing two dice and adding
their totals. Where should you place your counters to be more
likely to win?
A card pairing game involving knowledge of simple ratio.
A game for 2 or more players with a pack of cards. Practise your
skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to hit
the target score.
This is a game for two players. Can you find out how to be the first to get to 12 o'clock?
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.
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?
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?
Try this matching game which will help you recognise different ways of saying the same time interval.
A game for two players. You'll need some counters and somewhere to draw a board.
A game for two players. You'll need some counters.
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.