Images of a Bingo math game and fraction flashcards for matching.

Math Center Ideas: 9 Fun Upper Elementary Math Centre Games

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Are you looking for fun and easy math center ideas? Do you need some new engaging math games for centers? Including fun math games is a guaranteed way to keep your kids engaged AND learning during math stations!

In my upper elementary math classroom, I always have a math game during math centres. My kids LOVE when it is their turn at this math station and hardly even notice the learning. Win-win.

Balanced math centres task cards - ideas for math centers

If you’re just getting started with math centres, or wanting to make them better, you will want to read all about setting up and organizing math centres first.


You’re here, so I know you care about making learning meaningful and engaging yet still rigorous. But, I also know you have better things to do on your evenings and weekends! This job can suck every minute of our time if we let it.

So let me help you get some of that valuable time back to spend with family and friends, (or a glass of wine and Netflix binge…).

These math games for centers are super fast to set up and can be re-used time and again to practice different concepts!

Ideas for Math Centers

Zap!

I don’t remember where I first learned of this game, but it has been a winner ever since. From Kindergarten to Grade 6, my kids love it and it is so simple to make!

Take a handful of popsicle sticks (jumbo sticks will give you more room to write) and write questions, numbers or words on them. Add a few that say “Zap!” and pop them all in a cup with the writing down.

Students take turns pulling out a popsicle stick. If they answer correctly, they keep the stick. If they get it wrong, it goes back in the cup. If they pick a “Zap!”, they put ALL their popsicle sticks back. The winner is the player with the most popsicle sticks at the end.

What should you put on the popsicle sticks?

  • Mental multiplication addition, subtraction or division questions to solve,
  • Algebraic expressions to solve
  • Place value tasks – e.g., read a number written in expanded form
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Bingo or Connect 4

These are fundamentally the same game – a scoring grid, you decide the size, with an answer in each space.

Students use task cards, flash cards or a set of generated questions. They answer a question, agree it’s correct and cover the answer on their board if it is there and available.

In Bingo style games, each player will have their own board and will race to complete a line, square or fill the board first.

In Connect 4 (or 5), typically two players use the same board and can try to block each other from getting a line. It doesn’t really matter what rules you agree to use, your kids will have fun with this math centre game!

SWAT!

I honestly think I could keep a permanent SWAT! station and my kids would never get bored. It’s just that much fun, and soooo versatile!

SWAT! can be played digitally on a projector as a class (which is my favourite) but can also easily be played in a math station. Each of our SWAT! games come with both versions included.

As a math centre, students spread out the cards across the desk or floor and take turns asking a question. The first player to ‘swat’ the correct answer takes and keeps that card. While bare hands work just as well, the addition of a couple of cheap fly swatters take this game up a notch – these hand-shaped swatters are too cute!

Math review game SWAT with rules, instructions and playing cards. Part of Past the Potholes full year math curriculums.

We have a number of ready-to-use math games (including SWAT!) in our TPT store already. Also most of our complete math units include a math game as a review activity. This is absolutely one of my favourite math centre games!

Sink my Ship! (Battleship)

The well-known game is great for learning and practising coordinate grids and graphing. However, it can also be easily modified for a number of other math concepts.

In Geometry, I have students ‘hide’ various polygons on a grid to be sunk by their opponent. They can use terms like ‘inside hit’, ‘edge hit’, ‘vertex hit’ or ‘miss’ to improve the use of vocabulary terms and communicate with their opponent.

Salute

Salute is a favourite card game in my class. It’s best played in groups of 3 but can be modified for 4. You can use just the number cards from a deck of cards, or assign the face cards a value. These school-friendly number cards are a perfect option if you need some.

Two players each pick up a card and, without looking, hold it to their forehead (so their opponent can read it) and say “Salute!”. The third player adds, multiplies or finds the difference of the two numbers. The first player to figure out the number on their own card using this information, keeps both cards.

Concentration or Memory

No matter what you call it, this is a favourite game from pre-school years. For upper elementary math games, instead of using matching cards, have one card with the question and another with the answer.

This can be any number of topics: one card has a shape, the matching card has the shape name; one card has a probability event, the other has the theoretical probability; one card has a measurement unit, the other has the equivalent in another unit.

Image of matching flashcards of representing fractions for math centre ideas

Fill the Board

Math centre games that cover multiple standards? Yes please! This one is perfect for area and multiplication.

Give pairs of students a grid and two dice. They take turns rolling the two dice, finding the product and creating an array on the grid. For example, if they roll 3 and 5, they would create a 3×5 array and label it 3×5=15.

The goal is the be the last person able to add an array to the grid so there is some strategy involved in addition to the multiplication practice. Students can draw their arrays or use manipulatives to cover the spaces, allowing the grids to be reused.

War

The classic card game we all know and love. All you need is a set of cards, or just make your own number cards!

Adapt this game to the level of your students and the skill you want to review. Students can flip over 1 card and simply compare to find the larger. Or they can flip over 2 cards and figure out who has the larger product. Have them flip over 2 cards and arrange as a fraction to compare.

Additional Math Center Ideas

Any Dice and Card Games

I’ve mentioned a few but I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the possible ideas for math games for centers that need nothing more than dice or a deck of cards.

Get ideas for more dice games and card games.

Online Games

I also love to use online games to keep students learning and engaged without adding to my workload.

Why are digital math games a great idea for math center activities?

  • Kids love anything digital!
  • They are colourful, interactive and engaging in ways no paper and pencil task can ever be
  • The questions each time, so the same game can be replayed many times.
  • Most, if not all, are self-checking meaning immediate feedback for kids and no pile of marking for me!
Image of task cards with QR codes to self-check answers being used on a cell phone.

My favourite site is ABCYa! but there are many options.

You could also set your kids up with accounts on Prodigy Math. My kids actually asked me to do this as they had enjoyed it the previous year. It takes them through a series of challenges and the website provides data for the teacher too. It’s such an easy option for math centre games.


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