Fun math games for kids – Sum Swamp

Learning Resources: Sum Swamp

Sum Swamp is a maths boardgame that practices addition and subtraction in a simple and colourful way. What I like about the game is that it is very appealing to visual-kinaesthetic learners. Children select one of the four colourful markers (frog, snail, dragonfly, or crocodile) and roll dice to create equations that determine how they move around the board. The full instructions are conveniently available to view online: here.

The game is aimed at ages 5+ and can be played by 2 – 4 players; younger children may prefer to play two characters in case one languishes far behind the rest. Children are learning to arrange sums so that the largest number goes to the left; to recognise plus (+) and minus (-) symbols; and to recognise odds and evens. The simplest addition sum in the game is 1 + 1 = ?; the most difficult addition sum in the game is 6 + 6 = ?.

Tips for scaffolding the game (decreasing difficulty)

  • You can make the game easier by using physical objects for children to count and re-group while they do the sums.
  • The game provides numeral dice; consider switching to dice with dots. This helps children by giving them something visual to count.
  • Provide a number line. There are various types that can be purchased or you could print one for free from Twinkl.

Tips for scaffolding the game (increasing difficulty)

  • Buy a write on / wipe off dice (or other blank dice) so that you can also use the game to practice multiplication and division.
  • Buy a set of beautiful gaming dice containing D4, D6, D8, D10, D10 percentile, D12, and D20 (check out colours like milkshake, undersea whispers, or supernova). This opens the game up to an older audience; for instance, you can do equations up to 20 (using D12 + D8) and up to 30 (using D20 + D10). You may need to come up with a few house rules as you move to bigger numbers; for instance: that you need to do two laps of the board to finish, or, that the maximum amount you can move forward/back in a turn is 10.

Fun math games for kids – Times Tables Heroes

Orchard Toys: Times Tables Heroes

Before we played Times Tables Heroes, we had already spent time looking at the concept of ‘grouping’ (multiplication) and ‘skip counting’. We ‘group’ our captured pieces when we play Fanorona and I show how we can count them by 1’s, or 2’s, etc; we collect pebbles on our nature walks and practice different ways to ‘group’ them to help us count them. Times Tables Heroes is a fun way of practising our times tables that Miss 6 genuinely enjoys (and much better than my memories of sitting in front of a chalk board while the entire class repeated after the teacher!).

The game comes with sturdy cardboard pieces and is easy to set-up. You choose from one of four superheroes (each of whom has unique super powers). Instead of rolling a dice, you spin two spinners. One spinner determines which multiplication table you will practice; beginner level practices 2, 5, 10 and advanced level practices 1 – 12. The next spinner determines how many ‘groups’ you will have; i.e. 12 groups of 2. Once you have announced the answer correctly, you move to the next vehicle on the board that matches the spinner.

I love that the game comes with a colourful multiplication slider. It’s easy to scaffold the game so that children begin by using the slider to find their answer and then, as they gain confidence, to check their answer. We also do a hand-clapping singing game to work our way through the times tables each time to reach the answer.

The twist for the game is that it also incorporates oral storytelling (a literacy bonus!). If you land on a vehicle with a shield then you pick up a dreadful disaster card and need to describe how you will use your superpowers to save the city. The game helpfully comes with a guide that explains the disasters but we prefer to make up our own, after all – would you rather defend the city from an asteroid, or from an attack by giant flaming meatballs from an alien’s intergalactic BBQ party?

Tip: What is wonderful for visual-spatial learners and kids whose learning needs mean they need lots of movement, is that they do not need to sit still for this game. Encourage them to get up and act out their story (or everyone’s story – though they may need to be encouraged to do silent mime on other people’s turn).

Tip: It’s easy for this game to tick off maths, oral storytelling, and drama in a single session. You could use it to further support literacy, by asking kids to later extend on one of their superhero stories by writing it down / typing it up. Alternatively, encourage them to dictate the story and focus on linear story telling, mind mapping what / when / why / who / where, and editing.

Tip: The Shield cards have numbers that provide bonus moves. We find the game quite short so we ignore this and our house rule is to treat these as victory points; this way everyone can have a go at defeating the robot at the end of the board and it doesn’t matter who gets there first.

Maths Bingo

You can also reverse the game board to create maths bingo boards (with extra boards available online).