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Math: LOVE it or hate it!

Outdoor Math Games

Math is a subject of great divide: kids either love it or hate it! Sometimes, teachers need a little extra help convincing kids that math is cool. One of the best ways to show kids how fun math can be is to take it outside of the classroom and onto the playground! Outdoor math games are a perfect blend of fun and learning. These kinesthetic math activities turn addition, measurement, and number word recognition practice into games where kids throw, chase, and run. These games are also great learning tools for kinesthetic learners, or kids who learn best through activity. Each of these outdoor math games works great as a whole class activity or as a small group game for adult-led learning centers.

idea submitted by Hannah Boyd

Play Bowling for Addition with your first graders to practice addition in the great outdoors! Prep for the game by collecting ten empty plastic water or soda bottles. Cut out ten wide strips of paper, write the numbers 1-10 on the strips, and tape a strip to each bottle to make a faux label. Arrange the numbered bottles in a triangle formation, similar to bowling pins. You will need one set of ‘pins’ and a small, soft ball for each group of roughly 3-6 students. To play, have children take turns rolling the ball towards the pins to see how many they can knock over in one try! Add up numbers on the tumbled pins and have the bowling child keep score so he can practice his addition. Kids can play three, five, or ten rounds depending on the time allotted. The child with the most points at the end of the game wins!

idea submitted by Reuben Maness 

Introduce your students to measurement by making a step map! Ask your kids how long they think the classroom is. Will it take 10 steps to walk from one wall to the other? 20 steps? 100 steps? Have a volunteer child demonstrate how many steps long the classroom is by walking from one wall to the opposite while the class and teacher count aloud. Have students work in pairs to measure the steps it takes to cross other parts of the classroom. How wide is the room? How long is the cubby area? How many steps does it take to walk the length of one desk? When all of the measurements have been taken, the class can make a step map of the room. Using an easel-size piece of grid paper, draw the shape of the classroom using the grid squares as a guide, with one square equaling one step.

idea submitted by Julie Williams

Wolfie, Wolfie is a game where kids get to play against the teacher! Before class, write each number 1-12 on its own piece of construction paper. Then, flip the papers over, and spell out the name of each number with letters. For example, one of the pieces of paper will say “2” on the front and “two” on the back. To play, have your students stand on one side of the playground while you stand on the opposite side. Kids will start each turn by shouting, “Wolfie, Wolfie, what time is it?” The teacher will respond by holding up a piece of construction paper with the written number facing the students. The students will take that many steps forward. If the teacher holds up “seven,” the students can take seven steps forward. If any students take too many steps, the teacher can flip the card over so that it says “7” and students will need to take seven steps back. Any time the numeral is shown students must step back.When the students get really close to the teacher, or when it’s time for the game to be over, the teacher can respond to “Wolfie, Wolfie, what time is it?” by shouting, “Time for Dinner!” The teacher can then chase the ‘lambies’ back to the starting place. The first child that gets tagged by the teacher is the new Wolfie!

These math games are all great ways to engage kinesthetic learners in lessons about addition, measurement, and number recognition! If your students want to sharpen their math skills before they play, give them some math worksheets for kids
as a pre-game warmup.

I'll be back soon to share our new favorite math game! It is GREAT for procedural fluency. In the meantime you should definitely download these FREE kid friendly 8 mathematical practices by Melissa for the Common Core standards. They have been working great in the classroom. Even our district math resource teacher approved! Do you have any fun resources for making math fun? I'd love some more ideas.


  1. Great post!! These will work a treat with my homeschooled daughter with sensory issues. Thanks so much!!!

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