We’ve all been there as a parent or teacher, when we have an unexpected 5 minutes to fill. We need a spontaneous no prep activity to keep kids engaged and also hopefully build their skills. Here are some 5 minute no prep math games I love to use.
Guess My Number– I started playing this game with tutoring students when we were finished but waiting for parents to pick them up. Since then I have also played it with whole classes while transitioning or needing a quick “filler” activity. It’s easy, fast, develops number sense and questioning skills, and they love it! All you do is choose a number (I usually do 1-100 but have done both smaller and larger ranges depending on the age of the kids.) Then you let the kids take turns asking yes/no questions to determine the number. Whoever correctly guesses the number gets to choose the number for the next round. (You can use a laminated hundreds chart to cross off numbers, but I usually do it all verbally. It also makes a great partner game with individual hundreds charts.)
Number Bounce (idea from Mr. Elementary Math) Begin by telling your students that you will count forward or backward by ones starting with a specific number and ending with a specific number. Let your students know that when you tap them, they will have to say the next number. Here is one example: using the start number 213 and the end number 235. I start counting forward by ones like: 213, 214, 215, 216. Next I tap a student on the shoulder. The student says 217. Then I continue counting: 218, 219, 220. I tap a different student. The student says 221. I continue to count in this way until I have given most of the students an opportunity to answer. The student who says the last number in the sequence says, “235. Bounce” and gets the opportunity to do a 20-second celebratory dance.
Base Ten Toss (also from Mr. Elementary Math)- For this routine, students stand in a circle. After one student counts in base ten language (ex. 7 tens 5 ones…75), he or she passes a beach ball or bean bag to the person standing next to them. When a student says a base ten decade with no ones (ex. 8 tens 0 ones…80) they get the opportunity to toss the beach ball to any classmate of their choice.
Math Simon Says-Simon Says is one of those classic games kids still love today as much as we did when we were young. Give it a math twist. Use physical movements you have taught for math vocabulary like “Simon Says show a line” where kids hold out both arms with hands extended ( my post Teaching Lines and Angles has specific examples) or make it as simple as “Simon says hold up your fingers to show the answer to 3 times 3.”)
Stand Up Sit Down– This is a variation of Simon Says. If the leader gives an equation equalling the target number, students stand up. Any other number, they sit down. For example if target number is 10, students would stand for 5 * 2 or 3 +7.
Hangman– Use your whiteboard to play Hangman with any math vocabulary words (Some teachers use a “Build a Snowman” variation now to take the violent aspect away from Hangman.)
Math Sparkle-In this variation of the popular spelling game, students stand in a circle, and for each round the teacher or leader chooses a different number to skip-count by and an ending number. For example you might skip count by 3’s to 90, and the student who says 90 sits down. Then you start over again at 3 and keep going until only one student is left. This is a great way to practice those multiplication facts!
Fraction Sparkle– In a variation of the above game, use a deck of playing cards, (with face cards removed) to generate unit fractions. Students stand and count by that unit fraction until someone “builds the whole”. (So for example, if you flip over a 3, students would take turns counting, “one third, two thirds, three thirds”.) Whoever “builds the whole” sits. Flip the next card for another denominator and continue. The last child standing win.
Finger Speed Sums/Differences- •Students face a partner with one or both hands hidden. On the count of three, they each hold up any number of fingers. Whoever says the sum or difference (depending on which you want to practice) first wins.