Math Games for Kids: How to Play "What's My Rule?"

This simple shapes-sorting math activity will help your early learners improve their classification skills and understanding of geometry.

Aug 29, 2018



Math Games for Kids: How to Play "What's My Rule?"

Aug 29, 2018

One of my favorite games to play with my younger students is called “What’s My Rule?” In this fun sorting game, players sort and classify objects based on their characteristics and attributes. This helps young learners begin to understand the geometric characteristics of shapes and objects. Playing "What's My Rule?" allows your child to use mathematical vocabulary appropriately, such as identifying a triangle as a shape with three sides — and not just by its color. Just a few rounds of the game will broaden your child’s view on sorting and classifying, which will carry over as she begins to look at larger numbers and build her number sense in older grades. 

How to Play

Step 1: Collect about a dozen different objects to use for the game, such as shells, stickers, Legos, leaves, balls, etc. Aim to find objects that don’t look too similar and have about three or four different geometric characteristics. You can focus on any of the following attributes: size, color, shape, texture, or number of sides.

Step 2:  Create a circle — you can draw it with sidewalk chalk, use string to create the circle, or a plop down a hula-hoop. Eventually, this circle will contain all the objects that conform to the rule you determine. 

Step 3:  To start the game, think of a rule using a specific characteristic that your objects possess. Silently and slowly, begin to put the objects that follow your rule inside the circle. I usually put about three objects in the circle. Then ask your child, “What’s my rule?” Let him answer but don’t tell him if he's correct.

Step 4: Next, put three objects outside the circle that do not follow your rule.

Step 5: Now, ask your child to take an object and place it inside or outside the circle so that it follows your rule. If you are playing with more than one child, everyone can take a turn.

Step 6: Keep taking turns adding objects until there are no objects left to sort.   

Step 7: Ask your child to explain what the rule was for the game.

Here's an example of how the game would look being play with shapes. In this case, my rule is that all shapes have to have four sides: 


This game can be played following these rules or adapted. The point is for your child to start sorting and classifying objects and using appropriate vocabulary to describe the attributes of different objects. Once your child is comfortable playing the game, switch it up: have her create a rule. Now you have to guess what the rule is. This is usually a child's favorite part!

MORE: 4 Math Games to Boost Geometry Knowledge


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