A Field Day for Math
Add some bounce and zing into your springtime math lessons with these fast-moving playground games.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
Play a combination of field day favorites Mother May I and Freeze Tag — with no running and lots of math practice! Players line up shoulder to shoulder, while the “Sun” (you or any player) stands in front. The Sun gives two numbers, such as 10 and 5, to the first player on the left. The player asks, “Freeze, Please?” If the Sun says “Yes,” the player adds the numbers together (10 + 5 = 15), walks forward the same number of steps as the answer, then freezes. If the Sun says “No,” the player subtracts the smaller number from the larger number (10 - 5 = 5), walks forward the same number of steps as the answer, then melts (falls gently to the ground). A frozen or melted player can't take his next turn until another player, on her turn, “thaws” or “heats” him respectively by tagging him as she walks by. The heated or thawed player can go when it's his turn again. The first to reach the Sun wins, and becomes the Sun in the next round.
This relay race gets children moving — and adding like mad! Have two or more even-numbered teams line up in a row about 25 feet away from a pylon. Call out the first command: “Hop by 2s!” The first players in line must hop to the pylon and back, counting by 2s with each hop (2, 4, 6, 8, and so on). At any time, call out another command, such as “skip by 3s, jump by 5s,” etc. (Other commands to try: tiptoe, crawl, march, jog, sidestep, ice skate, swim.) The players start from zero with each new command. The players should round the pylon and return to tag the next player in line, who continues where the first player left off. After the race is done, the winning team jumps for joy — by 10s!
1+2, Touch Your Shoe!
In this rhyming game, players act out the solutions to simple equations. Kids can play independently or you can lead them in a group activity. For the youngest students and children with physical disabilities, make up and practice alternate movements together beforehand. Challenge older kids to make up their own verses!
1 + 1, reach for the sun (reach up for the sun 2 times)
1 + 2, touch your shoe (touch shoe 3 times)
1 + 3, touch your knee (touch knee 4 times)
1 + 4, touch the floor (touch floor 5 times)
1 + 5, take a drive (make 6 turns of an imaginary wheel)
1 + 6, pick up sticks (pick up 7 imaginary sticks)
1 + 7, fly to the heavens (flap wings 8 times)
1 + 8, shut the gate (shut gate 9 times)
1 + 9, chop down a pine (axe chop 10 times)
1 + 10, do it all again! (clap 11 times)
Try this toss-and-solve game to build early multiplication skills. First, draw a large chalk grid on the blacktop or sidewalk. Mark the numbers 1 through 5 along the top and down the left side. Provide beanbags, and invite children to step up and toss their bags at the grid. Wherever the bag lands, that's the equation they must solve. For example, if the bag lands on the axis point between 2 and 5, the child must multiply 2 x 5 and call out the solution. Challenge more advanced learners with a grid that goes all the way to 10. For more math fun, mark out a grid and ask students to each write an equation on a sticky note, then place one note inside each box. Then invite children to step up, beanbags in hand, and try their luck!
Concentration, Ready for Math
Practice the multiplication tables with this variation of the popular clapping game. Begin by introducing to (or reviewing with) students the Concentration Clapping Sequence: CONCEN- (lap clap once), TRATION (hands clap once) ARE YOU (snap once) READY? (snap again); CONCEN- (lap clap), TRATION (hands clap) LET'S (snap) GO (snap)!
Next, divide the class into pairs. Each pair sits crosslegged, facing each other. The pair follows the clapping sequence while adding the verses following the designated number table for that particular round.
Both players: Concentration, are you ready?
Concentration, let's go!
Beginning with the adding of…
Player #1: Threes.
Taking turns, and keeping a steady pace, the players give the next number in sequence on the lap clap.
Player #1: Three
Player #2: Six
Player #1: Nine
Player #2: Twelve
If a player give an incorrect number or hesitates, the other student gets a point and the game starts again. The players take turns choosing the number. Have kids switch partners and play again!
Practice math facts and your hoop shots with this basketball game. (No hoop? Use any ball and a wastepaper basket.) Players stand in a line about 10 feet from the basket. A referee (you or another player) holds a pile of addition/subtraction facts flashcards, and calls out the equations one at a time. For example, you call out “2 + 3!” The first player in line calculates the answer in her head, then bounces the ball 5 times as she walks toward the basket. When she stops, she calls out the answer and shoots. Then the next child takes a turn. For older kids, try using multiplication and division flashcards.