Play "I Wish I Had" to Boost Your Child's Math Skills

This fun, equipment-free math game can be played at any level to support number sense and number awareness.
By Jennifer Hogan
Jul 05, 2016



Jul 05, 2016

To keep math learning going all summer, play this easy and fun game with your kids. "I Wish I Had…" can be played anywhere and with any age group. There are different variations and it can be made “easy” or “challenging.” Here's how you play:

One player says what she wishes she had and the other player has to find the missing number. It seems a little too easy to be true, but students love this game and it works on developing their number sense and number awareness without any complaining! This game also builds kids' fluency and helps them become more efficient with their number facts. Here's more information on how to play. 

Addition/Subtraction: Set the target number to 10 (or any number). To start, you'll say, “I wish I had 10…” Then you either show a number using flashcards or make up a number and the players respond with the part that is needed to make 10.

Example: If you say “I wish I had 10,” and then show or say the number 6, your child(ren) needs to come up with the number 4.

Example: If you say “I wish I had 20,” and then show or say the number 32, the other players will need to respond with the number 12.

Example: If you say “I wish I had 100,” and then show or say the number 57, the next player must responds with the number 43.

Example: If you say “I wish I had 100,” and then show or say 132, the next player should respond with 32.

Multiplication/Division: In this version of the game, the focus is on finding the missing part using multiplication and division. The rules are the same — the only difference is the skill being practiced.

Example: Player one says, “I wish I had 40” and then shows or says 8. The other player responds with 5.

Example: If you say “I wish I had 90,” and then show or say 10, the other player responds with 9.

Example: When you say “I wish I had 144,” and then show or say 12, the other player needs to respond with 12.


  • The game can focus on a single number over and over again, or the “I wish I had” number can change each time.
  • Players can say the equation (number sentence) after each turn. For example, “6 + 4 =10 and 10 – 6 = 4.”
  • Players can write each equation (number sentence) in a journal and add to it each time they play. 
  • Players can use a number line to show the jumps needed to get to the “I wish I had” number.

If you have older kids with high level math skills, increase the “I wish I had” number to 3-digit, 4-digit and even greater numbers for a more challenging game!

Featured Photo Credit: © AvailableLight/iStockphoto

Do you have favorite math games and strategies to sneak math into the summer? Share them with us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.

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