Why you need to Start using Fun Math Review Games

Do you want to know why I use math review games in my classroom? Imagine it’s the beginning of the school year and you are staring at a list of 25 names with letters indicating B for Beyond level, O for On level, and A for approaching level. That’s all you have. You have no idea who reverses numbers, can’t skip count, or doesn’t know place value. There are so many prerequisite skills that go into our math lessons! 


When I started coteaching 2nd grade math, I knew that the students on my caseload would have gaps in understanding that I needed to help fill. What I didn’t know was that the general education students would also have gaps! After the years of pandemic and hybrid learning, I should have anticipated this. 


My coteacher and I looked into our math program to see what math routines we were supposed to teach. Our math program wanted us to use finger flashes to teach counting by ten for the first month of school. The only problem was that this wasn’t nearly enough! There were so many math concepts that we taught in that first month that our students didn’t have the background knowledge for. So, we decided to create something to fill the gaps! Our daily math review games were born!


In this post, we will talk through:

  • Why you need to start math review games
  • How to use daily math warm ups
  • Whole group participation in games for math review



Why you need to start using fun math review games

I know what you are thinking: I literally don’t have a spare minute in my math block; even if I did, I don’t have the energy to start something new. Okay, hear me out here. What if I told you that in ten minutes a day, you could fill in the gaps for ALL your learners, you could challenge your high achievers and check understanding for every single student? What if I told you that the only thing you had to do was open a slideshow? Ten minutes a day can transform your student’s math skills for a whole year.


As teachers, we know all about prerequisite skills. We can tell you what students need to know and be able to do before they get each one of our lessons. Sometimes though, we don’t know if our students actually know or are able to do those prerequisite skills! 


Last week at lunch, I overheard some colleagues complaining that they had to make recommendations for what students should qualify for Title I services when they felt like they did not know their math abilities yet since we hadn’t given our first unit assessment. If the first time we are getting to know our students’ math capabilities is during the sixth or seventh week of school, that may be a problem. Let me tell you how daily math review games can help!




How to use daily math warm ups


In our classroom, we use four or five basic problems in our math warm ups. The key is that every single student participates every single time. I am just using a simple PowerPoint presentation to show the questions one at a time. Students get their white boards, markers and erasers out. We say, “Markers up!” and students hold their markers in the air to show that they are ready. When we have everyone ready, we show the first problem. Students solve it on their white board and turn to show it to the teacher. I teach them at the beginning to track the teacher, meaning they need to follow me with their eyes and turn their white board towards me. This is because I am circulating throughout the room watching them solve and giving helpful hints to my struggling students. If they are correct, I give them a thumbs up and they erase their white board.


After a minute, I start solving the problem on the board and then guide any students who have not completed the problem into being successful. I can also provide an extension to any students who need that challenge. We call this the “level up” prompt. For example, in our first few sets of math review games, I would give students two addends and they would have to find the sum. The “level up” was to have students write four equations from this fact family. It was great to see students challenge themselves once they got more comfortable with the content.


Here is the golden ticket – keep the format of problems the same! For the first two weeks, the problems look almost exactly the same! The numbers are just changing slightly. This helps students understand what to expect, grow confident in how to solve, and it speeds up the process. This routine takes a little bit of time at first, but it is worth every minute. When your principal walks in the first week in October and sees your mathematicians solving different types of problems independently, I promise you they will be impressed!


What goes in my games for math review

As I said before, let’s keep it simple. Pick four or five different types of problems. This year, we started with counting by tens, solving for a sum, fast ten facts (10 + 5 = 15), and a word problem. We always finish off with a word problem. I like to personalize these and add student names inside. Our students now expect to see their name pop up every once in a while and they feel so special.


You can customize this process to fit whatever you are getting ready to teach! The weeks before we started a unit of counting coins, I added skip counting by 5’s and 10’s into our math warm ups since that would be very helpful. Before we got to geometry, I started exposing them to the shapes they learned in first grade. 


I also like to bring back concepts that we haven’t reviewed in a while. For example, we hit addition and subtraction really hard at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, it doesn’t come up as often. So, I throw it back into the review!


Here is the big secret to keeping this running smoothly – if you really want to change up your daily math warm ups, I only recommend changing one activity per week. If you change all the activities to new concepts, it will slow down the flow because students are learning too many new things at once. Be sure to only change up one new thing a week.


Personally, I also get bored with the same format, so I designed different themes for every ten weeks. My students loved seeing new backgrounds and pictures.


Grab my editable math daily reviews

Back to School Set – Brand New!!


Winter Theme

  • Mental math – weeks 1-10
  • Place value – weeks 1-10
  • Skip counting – weeks 1-10
  • Counting coins under a dollar – weeks 1-10
  • Telling time – weeks 1-10
  • Word problems – weeks 1-10


Animal Theme


  • Mental math – weeks 1-2
  • Interpreting bar graphs – weeks 1-7
  • Counting money below and above a dollar – weeks 1-10
  • Telling time to 5 minutes – weeks 1-10
  • Editable word problems – weeks 1-10
  • 2D shapes – weeks 3-5
  • Skip counting over 100 – weeks 6-10
  • Fractions of a set – weeks 8-10


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Hi, I'm Rachel!

I am a second grade learning support teacher, adjunct professor and momma to two little girls! I help teachers like you get organized and create systems to save time.

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