Teach This Math-Themed Twist on Rock, Paper, Scissors

Playing this fun, family-friendly game can help deepen your child's number sense and love of math!
By Jennifer Hogan
Feb 02, 2018




Feb 02, 2018

As a mom, I’m always looking for easy, low-maintenance games that are both fun and educational. One of our favorites is Rock, Paper, Scissors, Math! It’s a spin-off of the timeless game: Rock, Paper, Scissors. Your kids can play it anywhere because all you need is your hands!

As a math teacher, it’s very important for my students to think flexibly about numbers. I want them to see different combinations of numbers and feel comfortable with visualizing numbers in varied ways. Mental math (computation done in one’s head) is very important for your child's development. And helping your child deepen her ability to solve problems in her head will help enhance her number sense. Rock, Paper, Scissors, Math will allow your child to strengthen these important skills.

This game can be played as a counting game for 4- and 5-year-old children. It's also an awesome way for 10-year-olds to practice math facts. It can be played on the go to pass time or while traveling. The best part: your child won’t even realize that she's doing math.

How to Play

Step 1: (This version is for practicing adding numbers to 10.) Two players face each other and “pound” their fists saying “Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Math” (just like in the regular game).

Step 2: Each player shows a number (zero through five) shown as:

  • 0 - Closed fist
  • 1 - Pointed finger
  • 2 - Pointer and middle finger
  • 3 - Pointer, middle, and ring finger
  • 4 - All fingers but thumb
  • 5 - Whole hand

Step 3: Each player should hold their “number of fingers” out clearly so both players can see the total number of fingers.

Step 4: The first player to call out the sum (total number of fingers) wins!

Step 5: Repeat game.

Learning Extensions:

  • With younger children, take turns calling out the total. The game doesn't have to be competitive!
  • Your child can count on her fingers, if needed, to help find the total.
  • To make the game more challenging, play with three people.
  • Try adding numbers to 20 by holding out both hands.
  • Practice multiplying by using the fingers to find the product. For example, three fingers and five fingers would be 3 x 5 = 15.

Try playing with your children, and watch their number sense flourish while having fun. There are many different ways to play this game, so get creative and make Rock, Paper, Scissors, Math work for you and your family!

Featured Photo Credit: © supersizer/iStockphoto

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