How to Create Fun Math Games for Your Middle School Classroom

November 21, 2021 The Teaching Files 4 Comments
Learn how to create fun math games for your classroom.

Do you struggle with how to create fun math games for your middle school classroom? Creating meaningful classroom games in math can be easy, stress-free, and inexpensive. Earlier this month I shared the first blog post in this 3 part series of how to create fun math games for your middle school classroom, find it by clicking here. Today’s blog will break down an easy, free math game you can use as soon as tomorrow if you wish!

Why Use Math Games in Your Middle School Classroom? 

So let’s recap why you should incorporate math games in your middle school classroom. There is a BIG misconception that using games in your classroom means there is no learning taking place. I said it last week and I’ll say it again. That is FALSE. Using games and activities in your middle school classroom actually creates meaningful opportunities for your students to practice, apply, and/or review the content you taught them. We know that engagement and experience make all the difference in a student’s buy-in to the material. Some days and topics need worksheets, some need project-based tasks, and others may need a game or activity. Using math games in your middle school classroom is an additional strategy to support your students and their learning.

One of My Go-To Classroom Games

There are a ton of games and activities you can create and use in your classroom. I use so many games all year (like Tumbling Towers that I broke down in my last blog), but in today’s blog, I am going to break down another one of my go-to classroom games you can create and easily use with your own students in a variety of ways. Don’t worry, I have a free template for you further down the post for easy implementation.

An easy prep and engaging math activity.

A Quick Overview of Math Lottery

Another one of my go-to fun and favorite math games to create and use for my middle schoolers is called “Math Lottery”. Math Lottery is a no-prep game (with the free template I will be sharing) that you can pair with any review questions, assignments, or other curriculum resources you already have. To play, you need the lottery card, your questions, a way to generate a random number, and some quick prep! You assign a question and if they get it right, they get to claim one number on the lottery card. Once you have gone through all of the questions, you will use a random number selector to pick 3-5 numbers for “winners”. This game can be used for review or to practice for a specific skill which makes it handy to keep in your teacher toolbox on days where you need to up engagement.

Materials and Prep for Math Lottery

The materials and preparation for Math Lottery are minimal and FREE (with the exception of optional physical prizes but we’ll get to that in a bit). So, let’s break this math game down so you can bring it into your classroom.

Materials Needed:

  1. Math Lottery printed or projected. Click here for a free Math Lottery printable. You can also make your own Math Lottery card by inserting a table into a document and numbering it 1-?. If you have a small group of students, you can modify it to 1-50 or whatever is most fitting.
  2. Color pencils/crayons or dry-erase markers.
  3. Random Number Generator. There are a variety of free websites and apps you can use to quickly generate a number. 
  4. Optional: Prizes for winners. If your school utilizes a reward/incentive system, you can totally use that. If you would like to give something to winners, you can give a piece of candy, school supplies, or 1 extra credit point. 

Prep: Click here to download the free Math Lottery card

  1. First, decide how you will structure the activity.
    1. If you will play in teams, you will need to print one Math Lottery card per team (Place in sheet protectors or laminate to reuse).
    2. If you will play as a whole class as individual students, you will need to display the Math Lottery card on a whiteboard or smart board where students can write on the projection. Another option is to print the card in poster size.
  2. Gather/create the questions you will utilize to pair them with the game. This can be a Study Guide for a review, lesson practice questions, etc. 
  3. Be sure you have decided what students will use to mark/claim numbers. My suggestions are:
    1. If you will be laminating, putting in a sheet protector, or displaying on a whiteboard, use whiteboard markers.
    2. If you are printing, students can use a different color colored pencil than their teammates to shade in the box. 
    3. Another option is to simply have students write their initials in the box they are claiming.
  4. Have your random number generator loaded and ready. Here is a link for a free, online option.
Learn how to incorporate fun math games into your middle school classroom.

How Do You Play Math Lottery?

Here’s how to play:

  1. Assign a question to the class/students to answer/solve.
    1. Provide x amount of minutes per question depending on what you are covering.
  2. Check or go over the question. If the team/student gets it correct, they can claim one number box on the lottery card.
    1. I like to switch things up every few rounds and I make some questions worth 2 or 3 numbers to add some excitement.
  3. Repeat that process for each question until you have completed them all.
  4. Using the random number generator, select a number to “win”.
    1. I typically draw 3-5 numbers each time we play.
    2. I draw one number at a time to allow the suspense to rise.
  5. Give each team/student who wins their “prize”.
    1. Some of the small prizes I give out all year long other than school incentives and school supplies are water bottle stickers and jolly ranchers. Click here to get direct links (This is an affiliate link and I get a small commission if you make a purchase through it).

How To Structure Math Lottery

We know that competition in the classroom makes students a little crazy and excited. For the most part, that’s great and part of the goal of using math games in your classroom, but we want to be sure to cultivate an environment that is fun while also productive. Here are a few recommendations I have when structuring Math Lottery in your classroom:

  • Model and explain every part of what you expect of your students to do during this math game (I have multiple Tiktok videos in action of what this activity can look like).
  • Let students know upfront how many numbers you will be drawing at the end to build the suspense.
  • Set a time limit upfront each time when students are claiming their number after each question. When I play in teams of 4, I give 30 seconds for everyone to claim their spot. If playing whole class, you will want students to be ready and quick to get up and claim their spot on the board/poster.

Frequently Asked Questions About Incorporating Math Games

I share al the time about how I use math games in my middle school classroom and get asked the same questions often so I want to share some of the most popular FAQ’s to further support you.

  • How many kids do you put in each team?
    • I try to keep my students in teams of four, however, I adjust that number to 3 or 5 as needed when I have odd amounts or absences. 
  • How do you keep students focused on the Math and not just the game?
    • This is probably the most popular question I get and I wish the answer was more simple but it all goes back to expectations and classroom management. Model exactly what the game should sound and look like when you explain it. Model exactly what it should not sound or look like and when students are playing, if they are not meeting those expectations, stop and correct them. It’s okay to stop the activity if the majority of students are not following the directions you gave.
  • How do you ensure your students are actually doing the work and not just playing?
    • Very similar to the previous question, this goes back to the expectations you set. From day one, I am very clear that students are to show their work/thinking for everything we do. When explaining the expectations of the game, I revisit that everyone needs to have their work and answer before the time is up. This is never a problem in my classroom once they know I mean business because they know we will simply do a paper-pencil assignment if needed instead of our math game.

If You Missed the Last Math Game Blog Post…

Here’s a quick blurb from the post:

My absolute go-to fun and favorite math game to create and use for my middle schoolers is Tumbling Towers, aka “Math Jenga”. Tumbling Towers is a low prep game that you can use in your classroom over and over again. All it requires is the Tumbling Tower sets from Dollar Tree (the most inexpensive game ever) and your question game mats prepped, which I will explain further down this post. This game can be used for review or practice for a specific skill(s). I promise that once your students play this game once, they will ask to play again and again.

Learn how to make a fun math activity for your classroom.

Math Lottery has become a favorite year after year in my middle school classroom. In this difficult job, I hope this idea helps make your life easier. There is one more post to this 3 part series so be on the lookout for the next one where I will discuss one more idea for your classroom. I hope this was helpful and sparked a new idea for how to create fun math games for your middle school classroom.

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