Cover Your Side

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.2; 1.0A.C.6

What to Put in the Tub: Game boards and a stack of playing cards; 26 game pieces (e.g., bingo chips, blocks, small erasers)

What to Do: To get away from worksheet-itis and bring some math fun into her classroom, Kristen Smith, a first-grade teacher in Austin and blogger at, uses a variety of math tub activities, including one called Cover Your Side.

To begin this two-person game, each player selects a game board with 13 random numbers on it. They then take turns drawing one card at a time from a stack of playing cards. Some of the cards have addition or subtraction facts written on them. If students pull one of these cards, they solve to find the sum or the difference. Next, they cover that number on their board using a game piece. Other game cards are wild cards that direct students to cover any number, go again, or the dreaded clear your board. The player who covers all of the numbers on his or her board first wins.

Roll and Build

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.B.4; K.OA.A.1; 1.OA.A.1

What to Put in the Tub: Game boards with numbers 2 to 12 randomly written on each; two dice; connecting cubes

What to Do: The Roll and Build math tub activity is a favorite among Susan Jones’s first-grade students at Guilmette Elementary School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The game requires students to practice counting, addition, and cooperative learning skills. “My students love to play with connecting cubes. This gives them an educational and mathematical reason to build plenty of towers,” says Jones, blogger at

Roll and Build is played either with a partner or in small groups. To get started, a student rolls two dice and adds the resulting two numbers together. Next, the student builds a tower with connecting cubes to represent the sum. The student then places the tower on the matching number on the shared game board. Students take turns doing this until all of the numbers on the board have cube towers. If players get a sum that has already been covered with a tower, they must skip their turn and allow the next player to roll. Students keep playing until all of the spaces on the game board are filled.

“My kids love the skip-a-turn idea since it adds to the game-board feel,” says Jones. “I love it because they still have to find the sum before they realize they have to skip their turn!”

Math Clips

Standards Met: Various math standards, including CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.B.3

What to Put in the Tub: Laminated math cards (3-by-5-inch index cards with a math problem written at the top of each and four answer choices at the bottom); wooden clothespins with pom-poms glued to the top

What to Do: Elizabeth Hall, a kindergarten teacher in Franklin, Tennessee and blogger at, frequently uses Math Clips as a math tub. To complete the activity, students must solve a math problem displayed at the top of each index card. These problems can take many forms depending on the content being studied, including counting or identifying geometric shapes. If you’re studying telling time, for instance, the top of the card might have a picture of a clock showing a time; the four answer choices at the bottom would be written in numbers (e.g., 4:45).

When students figure out the correct answer, they clip the clothespin to their response at the bottom of the card—with the pom-pom fixed squarely on their choice. “The students love this activity because it is a step beyond skill and drill,” Hall says. “When you change it up and present content to them in different ways, they are excited about it.”

Marshmallow Measurement

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.2; 1.MD.A.2

What to Put in the Tub: Activity page; plastic sandwich bags filled with mini and jumbo marshmallows

What to Do: “Food makes everything more fun,” says Kelli Bollman, a first-grade teacher in Canton, Georgia and blogger at That’s why she designed Marshmallow Measurement as a motivating way to teach nonstandard measurement.

Students use marshmallows to measure various line lengths on an activity page—first in small marshmallows, then with large ones. They can also compare line lengths by stating which required more marshmallows and which required fewer.

Prep is easy. Print out an activity page for each student and place it in the math tub. Then, fill small sandwich bags with a combination of both mini (about 15) and jumbo (about 12) marshmallows. You’ll need one bag for each student, labeled with his or her name. This will serve two purposes. First, students can eat the marshmallows when done with the activity (as classroom rules permit), and second, you’ll be able to tell which students have completed the tub by noting which bags are empty.


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Photos: Courtesy of Kristen Smith