Creating great games from 1 idea!

😕 How can I think of simple but great games to use to teach Maths? 😕

That’s a question Tutors often ask me when I mentor them.

Maths Tutors often find being creative with their ideas tricky. I mean, we are Maths Tutors, not English or Art, aren’t we? That’s not really how we are, is it?

However, the gamification of repetitive number fact practice really works. Ask them to sit and do 20 questions presented as a standard worksheet, and you will be met with a less-than-enthusiastic response. Turn it into a game, and they will engage a whole lot more…

I have some pointers to help you with this straight away!

✅ Don't overthink the process
✅ Make games as simple as you can
✅ Make them untechy; no need for sounds or animations
✅ Just simple instructions that can be explained in a sentence or two
✅ Make them colourful and visual
✅ Use manipulatives and visual representations, not just digits and words
✅ Grab graphics from all sorts of sources. As long as you are not trying to sell your game, it doesn't matter where the graphics come from
✅ Repeat idea formats across games so they get used to the instructions, which will be almost the same, just the content changes
✅ Matching Q with A games work well

Are you looking for ideas? A simple matching cards game 
Great games.

The clever thing about this concept is from one set of resources, I can adapt it to a multitude of different games.

Game idea 1 - Connect 4 (or 3)

In this example, I downloaded a simple bingo game for practising times tables that was developed for use in a classroom setting.

Starting from the original boards and cards, snip using windows+shift+S, then paste ctrl+V, and make a large grid of all the BINGO boards.

Cut and paste each digit card just once.

I use BitPaper for my Virtual Whiteboard, and I share the URL with my pupil so they are on the board themself; I don't share the screen. I want the pupil to be as involved as possible.

Coloured cards with times table number facts 36 Questions but only 27 Answers (1 of each number)
36 Questions but only 27 Answers (1 of each number)

Rules:

  • Take turns choosing a digit card and place it on the large grid to match Q to A
  • Place a counter or cross out with two colours
  • Make 3 in a row or column (include or don't diagonals)

As each number is only available once, you may have to be strategic, as you may need a card that isn't there anymore to complete your 3 in a row.

Coloured cards with times table number facts 3 green answers in a column has won the game.
Green has won!

Variation 1 - make it 4 in a row, column or diagonal. This makes it a little bit more of a challenge.

Make it 4 in a row, column or diagonal. This makes it a little bit more of a challenge. Green has won with 4 diagonally.
Green has won 4 diagonally, but it was a much longer and more strategic game

Variation 2 - Paste enough digit cards so that all 36 Qs can be covered. This makes the game a little easier.

All 36 Q and 36 A matched up before the lesson during preparation to check all the correct cards are there.
I matched them all up beforehand to check I had enough of each digit

I matched them all up beforehand to check I had enough of each digit and then duplicated the whole page and moved them back off the grid before the lesson started.

With 36 Q and 36 A cards, this makes it slightly easier to play connect 4.
36 Q and 36 A cards, this makes it slightly easier

With just this one concept, you can play it in 8 different ways - 3 or 4 in a row, with or without diagonals, 1 for each Q or 36 A.


Game idea 2 - Matching cards

Using the same original resources, I also cut each question board into 6 Q cards plus the 36 answer cards.

36 answers and certain question cards are shown to pupils. The cards are ready to play.

I stacked all the blue ones in a pile, purple ones etc., to give 6 stacks of question cards.

Rules:

  • Pull out just the blue cards and move the other piles to the side/off-screen.
  • Pupil to match the six blue question cards with the correct six answer cards.
  • Once they have correctly cleared that colour set move the cards off the screen and repeat with a new colour set.
  • Gauge how the pupil is coping and either just do 1 or 2 sets of questions or increase to end up answering all six sets of questions.

This version is a great way for a child to practise lots of times tables or other number facts in a fun way and without them having to do lots of writing. Just click and drag!
They are also only trying to match the 6 questions they have in front of them.
Not too demanding or overwhelming.

Just 6 questions are shown at a time.
Just show six questions at a time

Variation 1 - place all 36 Q cards around the board and get them to try and match all 36 in one go. This is a much tougher challenge and will require more resilience and determination for them not to be overwhelmed at the start.

All 72 cards are shown at the start - not for the faint-hearted!
Variation 1 - all cards are shown at the start - not for the faint-hearted!

I wouldn't play it like this for pupils who are still lacking in confidence and resilience. But I would for pupils who are really beginning to feel confident with the number facts content, and this is the umpteenth time we have done this sort of warm-up game.


Game idea 3 - Board games

This time I am just using the same sets of 36 question cards as prompts within another game. I want to get the pupil to confidently answer the number facts but need another way of presenting it to them.

Snakes and ladders plus the same 'number fact' questions

I have now gamified the mundane answering of many, many questions, but this time in a more engaging way.

We each choose an animal counter to use in the snakes and ladders game. I pull out one question card, and if they can answer it, they get to roll their giant dice at home and then move their counter on the board. I then roll my dice and move.

Judy holding a giant cardboard dice
Giant cardboard dice with spot patterns

I then pull out another question card, and we repeat. Almost every child I have ever taught loves to play a board game like this and will want to beat me to the end. They become so engrossed in wanting to win that they are happy to try and answer a lot of questions to get there!

After a few turns, I get them to answer 2 question cards before they earn a roll of the dice. We can even answer a whole stack of 6 questions for each dice turn. You can vary it depending on how resilient they are.

If you want to use my dice, please print them on to card and glue them with PVA glue to make them more sturdy.


Of course, you could always use the BINGO game in the way it was designed, but you will need to be teaching a group.

I save all the games into an extra BitPaper as a resource bank that I can pull from over into any child's BitPaper when needed.

The smart thing about this concept is from one set of resources - I can adapt and gamify it to a multitude of different activities.

Even for the same pupil, we can vary the way we play with the same resources, practising the same skills. But by slightly changing how we gamify the process, it will feel familiar enough for them to be relaxed and not too anxious but different enough to keep their engagement and motivation.

The smart thing about this concept is from one set of resources - I can adapt and gamify it to a multitude of different activities.

This is just one idea that I then riffed on to make 11 different ways to create a gamified way of getting a pupil to do loads of practice on a set of number facts.

✔️I could swap other board games in as the main game;

✔️I could change the original resources.

So many possibilities...


Maths resources

If you are interested in using simple and clear flashcards that come as a pdf and be printed and used face-2-face or snipped into your whiteboard, why not look at my resource shop, where there are many sets of cards?

https://www.jmbeducationalservices.co.uk/product/120-number-recognition-flash-cards-1-20/

Number recognition cards

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