Mental math is a skill I’ve tried to incorporate into our math lessons whenever possible. Instead of using the traditional flash card method, I regularly turn to math games for middle school.
Even though my kids can easily grab a calculator to help them with math problems, it’s important to me that they are able to quickly come up with the answer in their head, almost automatically. To get to that point requires hours of practice, which can often get repetitive and boring.
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That’s why I use math games in our lesson plans. One of our favorites is commonly called “mathematical hot potato.” Not only is it fun to play, it is compact, which makes it incredibly easy to take on the road.
Each game consists of (4) 12 sided dice – 2 blue and 2 purple and a small pouch.
Playing the Math Game
Traditional Math Dice Chase play works best with 4-6 players, but below I share adaptations for playing with fewer people.
- With everyone sitting on the floor in a circle, give players sitting across from each other one set of dice and choose a math function (+, -, x, ÷ ).
- At the same time, both players roll their dice. Using the numbers on the top of the dice and the math function, each player should announce the math problem they’ve just created, along with the answer. Example: Imagine we chose multiplication for the round. On my turn, I roll a 7 and 11. I immediately say, “7 times 11 equals 77.”
- Whenever the players answer their problem correctly, they immediately pass the dice to the person on their left. The goal is to roll, answer, and pass the dice as quickly as possible.
- If a player ends up with both pairs of dice, they have to sit out a round. There’s definitely a benefit to being quick.
- When two players are left in the circle, they each roll one die. The first person to state the math problem and give the correct answer, wins.
But what if you have less than 4 people? Can you still play Math Dice Chase? Yes.
When I want to play this, but I’m short the recommended number of players, I play with one set of dice instead of two. Sometimes we still play like it’s “hot potato” with each player answering and passing the dice as fast as they can. Occasionally we will set a timer and race against it, together, each round.
There are other times when I let the girls just take their time and roll and answer as they’re able, with no pressure. However, if I think they can answer quicker, I will encourage them to pick up the pace.
This is wonderful place to start if your kids freeze up when they’re under pressure and hate being put on the spot or if players have drastically different skill levels.
Modifications for Using it as Mental Math Skill Builder
If you don’t want to play the full Math Dice Chase game, you can still use the dice during your math lessons to build up your student’s mental math skills by using one set of dice. Choose the math function you want your child to work on and let them roll the dice and answer the math problem without any timing or passing.
Take note of issues they have so you can work on those specific problems. As they master their math facts, have them speed up as they play.
This game will help kids:
- master basic math equations that they’ll use for every level of math
- know the answers to math problems immediately
- think on their feet
- work toward solutions under pressure
More Middle School Math Helps
Do you use games as part of your math lesson plans for middle school? If so, what are some of your favorites?