August 15, 2019

Becky Hill

Using Games to Grasp Math Concepts

Topics: STEM Education / Play, Learning at Home, Learning Through Play, STEM, STEAM


With just a smidgen of creativity, most games can become useful tools to help a child grasp a difficult concept. Games can be used to help teach math, English, geography, and other subjects. Ninety-nine or Bust is a math game in which basic skills are repeatedly used. Deer in the Headlights is a regular game where cards are discarded but this game can be easily converted into a math game. Buying games like these do not have to cost a fortune.

Buying Games on a Budget

Buying new games can become an expensive habit. Learning how, when, and where to shop can help nearly anyone create an ample game closet. Urban areas have great thrift stores. Learning how to hop around to thrift stores is key. In my opinion, Goodwill and Savers are the best. Most of the games come in excellent condition and they are reasonably priced. If a piece or pieces are missing, most games can be fixed by making the missing piece(s). If a game looks unfamiliar, buy it, especially if the price tag is $5.00 or less. Googling games is an excellent way to find out more information about an unknown game. Once a game closet has been built, funds should then be available to buy new games from time to time. Money has been saved using thrift stores. Buying those few games that have good reviews, new, is the icing on top of the cake. 


Learning Counting


Ninety-nine or Bust is an easy counting game that all ages can play. Counting games are excellent games to practice basic math skills for all ages.  In this game, each player is dealt 3 cards. Play begins when one player places a card down, and the count begins. When a number card is played, simply add to the total. As cards are played, always draw one more to keep a total of 3 cards in hand. Some cards are basic number cards. Some cards say, “99,” which brings the total immediately to 99.  Some cards say, “reverse direction,” which immediately reverses the direction of play. Some cards say, “subtract ten,” which immediately makes the total 10 less.Picture3pngPicture4-1

The game is really easy to play. The first person to go over the total of 99, loses. Throughout the game, players are adding backwards and forwards, all the way to 99. This game can be found online. In my personal opinion, this game is one of the best math resources that I own, simply because all ages can play, basic math skills are reviewed, the game is fun and entertaining, and the game was inexpensive.


Learning Integers


Deer in the Headlights is an excellent tool for teaching integers in pre-algebra and algebra. Oftentimes, rules can be tweaked to make a game more suitable for an academic lesson. But, Deer in the Headlights can be played using the regular rules. Split and deal the whole deck to the players. Take turns rolling the dice. The game comes with a guide that is easy to read. When the dice are rolled, match the roll to the instruction guide.

Picture1-1Picture2-1Discard cards per turn. As cards are being discarded, add integers. The red cards represent positive numbers. The black cards represent negative numbers. The Kings represent 13. The Queens represent 12. The Jacks represent 11. The Aces represent 1. For example, in the following picture, a player is discarding 4 red 8s, 4 black 8s, 3 black Jacks, and 2 red Jacks. Therefore, the algebraic equation would be:  (+8) + (+8) + (+8) + (+8) + (-8) + (-8) + (-8) + (-8) = 0. (-11) + (-11) + (-11) + (+11) + (+11) = (-11). The game has additional rules that are easy to follow that brings a competitive edge to play time. The first player to discard all of their cards, wins! This game is fun, reinforces algebraic concepts, and inexpensive. From personal experience, this game has often been in thrift stores still in the shrink wrap.


The goal in any tutoring or academic setting should be a happy, confident, competent child. When a few games are added, less tears are shed, and challenging concepts are mastered.  Confidence is built, and a child can walk away competent, knowing that the next time a difficult concept is introduced, fear and tears do not have to be a part of the equation.



Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 8.29.51 AMBecky Hill lives in Green River, Wyoming, with her husband of 29 years. She has 3 grown children and 2 grand dogs. Becky earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ouachita Baptist University, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 1990.  She earned a Biblical Studies Certificate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, Illinois, in 1993. Becky began homeschooling two of her children unexpectedly 13 years ago. Despite many challenges along the way, Becky creatively enabled both of her children to succeed. While her homeschooling adventures are over, she loves tutoring children and helping them to conquer subjects with no fear. Her specialty is mathematics. One of her favorite hobbies is creatively incorporating games into tutoring. The goal, she believes, is no tears, no fear, and a competent, confident, and happy child.  She has a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page called “The Happy Math Nerd.”


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