Friday, May 10, 2019

Having Fun Learning and Reviewing Math with Elementary Math Games from The Critical Thinking Co. {A TOS Review}

The children and I have been working on math in a fun and unique way these past several weeks. Thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew, we received a book from The Critical Thinking Co. titled Elementary Math Games. This book is recommended for children in grades 3-5, but both Harold and Tabitha have been participating as well. Harold is in first grade and Tabitha is in sixth. 

Elementary Math Games by Miryam Alter is a  textbook sized, softcover book that is 160 pages in length. The pages are perforated, but they are reproducible so I have not taken out any pages. According to the cover, it contains "Classroom-Tested Math Activities." See, originally I thought this was something Amelia and I were going to work through together when she needed some extra work to do to keep from getting bored, as she is always right on the ball and getting her work done earlier than she needs to. However, when I realized these games work well in groups, I decided to include all the children. So far, only one game we have played has been one-on-one, though it has become a favorite. Before I tell you what that game is, let me share more details about this fun book. 

The book begins with a Table of Contents. There are then four introductory pages containing the following information:
  • About the Games
  • Technology Tips
  • About the Author
  • In Appreciation
  • Helpful Math Terms
The bulk of the book is dedicated to the 20 math games, some of which are just one to two pages long, while a couple span up to 20 or 41 pages; however, the majority are less than 10 pages. While some games have lengthier directions than others, the majority of the pages in these longer games are the various student sheets, game cards, or activity cards that need to be copied in order to play the games. 

So, yes, in addition to the book, you will need a way to copy some pages, plus most of the games require at least a few additional materials. These are usually as simple as pencil and paper, index cards, something to use as a timer, etc. We did have need of a deck of cards for the one game we played, plus another game requires something to use as chips or markers. A few other items I noticed that would be needed are: graph paper, a die or two or four (depending on the game), multilinks or colored tiles, string or clothesline, and clothespins or paper clips. 

I admit, I didn't know what multilinks were, so I looked it up. They appear to be linking cubes, sort of like the Unifix cubes we have. We haven't tried the games that require them, but I am hoping the Unifix cubes will work.

After the games you will find a couple of pages labeled, "Where's the Math? Math Concepts and Skills." This is a chart that shows what skills are covered in each game. The skills are:
  • Number Sense
  • Operational Skills Practice
  • Place Value
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Math Vocabulary and Symbols
The book concludes with some sample activities from a few different books The Critical Thinking Co. offers. 

Now, let's take a closer look at how the games are laid out. 

As I mentioned, there are 20 games which allow children to work on a variety of skills. Here are the titles of the games:
  • Greater Than, Less Than
  • Stand Up and Be Counted!
  • Clap Your Hands! Stomp Your Feet!
  • Can You Make.....?
  • Math in a Circle
  • Fill the Grid!
  • I Know My Place
  • Top Ten With a Twist!
  • Let's Sum Up: Odd or Even?
  • Multi-Math Bingo
  • Place Cards - You're Invited!
  • Order Me!
  • Where Should I Place the Number?
  • Primes, Composites, Perfect Squares, Factors, and Multiples
  • Fraction Recipes
  • Build With Cubes
  • Fractions and Decimals Let's Compare!
  • Clothesline Fractions/Decimals
  • Make 1
  • Teachable Moments 
Each games' pages begin with the "Materials" list and the "Learning Standards for Mathematics." 

After that you will find an "Overview" of the game. Then there are the directions for how to play, along with examples of how to work through the game. 

Once the basic game has been explained, you will find a list of "Game Variations."

Then there are the reproducible pages, if the game requires any. Two of the games we played had these sheets. Here's a quick peek.

The first activity sheet is for the game "Greater Than, Less Than." For the basic game you are writing in 4 random numbers, two on one side, two on the other, which are added up to hopefully make the inequalities true.

There are five variations of this game:
  • Smallest difference (still using addition)
  • Different Operations
  • Using the Four Operations to Change the Numbers
  • Comparing Decimals
  • Comparing Fractions and Decimals
The following activity cards are from Game 2, "Stand Up and Be Counted!," which was actually the first game we played. There are three different levels (A, B, and C), with 12 cards per level. 

Some of the games also have Teaching Management Tips and Questions for Further Discovery.

I am going to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed when I first opened the book. Looking at all the games, with all the instructions, and seeing math terms I haven't seen in over a decade, was a bit much.   Some of the games have a lot to read through before playing the game. So, I decided to start with a game that looked easy to comprehend and play. I chose "Stand Up and Be Counted!" which had the added benefit of seeming simple enough to allow Harold to join in (with a bit of help of course). 

The children gathered in the living room after I copied the first set of activity cards on cardstock and cut them out. All the children had to do was write down 10 random numbers between 1 and 100. Then, I read one card at a time, and the children had to circle a number that fit the description. I helped by typing out the possible numbers in a word processing document if needed. This was especially important for descriptions that asked for a number that was the multiple of two different numbers or a factor of two numbers. The first one to circle all the numbers was to stand up, read the numbers, and let us know which descriptive statement described each number. I admit, I didn't require them to do this last part the first couple of times we played because I had missed that step in the instructions. 

Even though this game is called "STAND UP and Be Counted!" we found it was a fun game to play in the car. I just printed out my list of numbers that would work as answers for each description, and away we went. They just couldn't stand up when they had ten numbers circled. Instead, they just announced it.

I then decided to have the older girls look through the book and choose some games they wanted to try out next. This is what I came home to:

The next game we played was Game 1, "Greater Than, Less Than."

I copied one activity sheet per child and we gathered around the dining room table.

The children took turns rolling the die, which worked perfectly as each inequality needed to have four numbers rolled.

They had to decide which blank to put each number in, so when that round was done, the inequality was true.

When we played this game a different day, I used the variation where they would use different operations for each round. Though, I had Hannah and Harold stick with addition for the entire game.

The next game we played had me a bit concerned that Harold wouldn't be able to join in, but I tried anyhow. I have to say, he surprised me. We played Game 4, "Can You Make.....?" where the children had to write five random numbers from 1 through 25, one each on five index cards. Then I wrote a number between 1 to 50 on another card (as we couldn't use the board) and the children had to use at least two of their numbers to make that number, using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division. 

They were supposed to come up with the answer within 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, but I tried letting them have 2 minutes.

Here are the children's results for this first round:





Surprisingly they were all able to use randomly selected numbers to make a randomly selected answer. 

When we played a different round, Harold shocked me by knowing he had to add two of his numbers and subtract another. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture, so I don't remember what his equation ended up being; however, as he is only 7 years old, he sort of shocked me that he could come up with it that quickly. 

The game the girls have been playing a lot recently is Game 8, "Top Ten With a Twist." It is actually like playing the card game "War," where two players are dealt all the cards between them and then flip over one card at a time. The player with the higher card takes both cards. If there is a matching pair, you have to lay down three cards and flip the fourth card over. With this twist, you also do the extra cards if the cards add up to 10, making it imperative that the players are paying attention to the sums of the cards as they play. I actually added a bit of a twist to the twist. In order to take the cards, at any time in the game, the winner of the round needs to state the sum of the two (or four) cards.

We have really enjoyed both practicing and learning math skills with these four games we have played multiple times so far. I do now wonder if I am a bit behind in teaching some things to the children. I was a bit surprised to see games that included such things as factors, multiples, prime numbers, and order of operations in a book that is meant for children as young as third grade. Even my older girls didn't know all this information. So, I am using the opportunity of having these skills in game form to teach the children, making sure to explain as we go, and work things out for them when needed. 

The children each have a favorite game. Amelia and I love "Top Ten With a Twist." I was actually surprised it wasn't Hannah's favorite as we were having a blast with it. She actually said she isn't that fond with it because it could go on and on and on. She prefered "Greater Than, Less Than," or "The one with the die." Harold and Tabitha really enjoyed the "Can You Make.....?" game. 

I think we are going to have a lot of fun trying out a new game each week, to change up our math lessons. I love that there are variations to we don't get bored with the games. Elementary Math Games is a great, fun way to review and learn new math skills. 

You can find The Critical Thinking Company on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.

I also wanted to make you aware of this great offer. If you would like to purchase anything from The Critical Thinking Company between now and December 31st, 2019, you can receive a 15% discount and FREE shipping. Just use the coupon code: TOSCREW19

Don't forget to click the banner below to see the other The Critical Thinking Company reviews from my fellow Crew Mates. Not only will you find reviews for Elementary Math Games, but you will find reviews for the following:

Critical Thinking, Math, Vocabulary & Writing Skills {The Critical Thinking Co. Reviews}

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