Math Workshop Hands-On Games Q&A Roundup

We have reached the final week of our Math Workshop Q&A Series. This week I’ve gathered the most commonly-asked questions I receive about the Hands-On Rotation of Math Workshop. 

Here’s a refresher on the question categories I’ve shared each week during this blog post series: 

If you’re just joining us and want to catch up on the previous posts or if you prefer to see all the questions in one place, I’ll send you a PDF with the full collection of questions from this series. Simply click here to let me know you’re interested. Let’s jump into our final question category: Hands-On Rotation (Math Games).

Part 5: Hands-On Math Games Questions

Q: Do you use games from your curriculum, or do you find them elsewhere? 

The math games provided by any curriculum I’ve taught with were making me crazy because they were either too confusing for students to play independently, or they were too simple and students grew bored quickly. 

Close-up shot of Core Inspiration hands-on math game instruction card with related manipulatives nearby

I designed my own collection of hands-on games that are designed to promote student independence and self-directed learning. The format of each game card includes a consistent easy-to-read layout that gives students every detail they need to play successfully. The games are also super low-prep and use common math manipulatives like dice, timers, counters, rulers, and whiteboards. 

Each of the games in this collection includes suggestions for a more challenging version of the game, making it easy to differentiate and meet the wide variety of needs in your classroom. Games for every math unit in grades 2, 3, and 4 are included in my shop.

Q: How do you find time to teach new math games? Are game lessons taught in place of your mini lesson on some days?

Math games are always introduced through a routine I call Math Game Monday. This is a 15-minute chunk of time in our schedule on Monday when new math games are introduced. Some weeks, only one new game is shared, but during other weeks, we have enough time for two new games. 

Core Inspiration Hands-On Math Games arranged on classroom rug ready for an interactive modeling demonstration for Math Game Monday

We begin by setting up a fishbowl. All the students sit, kneel, or stand in a circle around a big open playing space, where I model how to play the game with student volunteers. When doing this in my classroom, I model the following steps while thinking and reading aloud.

  • Efficiently select an instruction card from the game station. 
  • Read the number of players.
  • Find classmates who are interested in playing the same game.
  • Find an open area to play.
  • Read the objective for the game.
  • Read the list of supplies as I gather them from our game station.
  • Read and execute the “Setup” steps.
  • Follow the “How to Play” steps as I think aloud in detail.
Q: When you do Math Game Monday, where do you pull that time from?

Math Game Monday takes place for 15 minutes right before lunch on Mondays. Every other day of the week, this is the time when we do word work/word study, but Monday is the day I introduce students to their new words during Reading Workshop so we don’t have a separate word work time on Mondays.

Consistent schedule displayed on classroom board.

Q: Can students play your hands-on math games by themselves or are all your games multiplayer?

The majority of my hands-on games are designed to be played with a partner, but some are single-player or small group games. The reason for this is to provide students more opportunities to talk about math while they play so they have both a tactile and auditory interaction with the concepts they’re practicing. 

Q: Do your students ever get bored with playing these games?

I haven’t run into that problem with these games. In fact, that is a huge reason why I started creating them – the games that came with our curriculum were very boring and everything I was finding online required way too much cutting and prep work. I wanted something simple and highly-engaging.

Q: How do you store all the hands-on games?

When they aren’t being used, I store them in my unit bins.

Math unit bins stored on teacher's supply shelf.

When they are part of our current rotation, I store them in Ikea Trofast drawers. The blog post linked here has many other tips for organizing math games. 🙂

Math games are stored in Ikea Trofast bins in the corner of the classroom so they are easily accessible for students to play math games independently.

Wrap Up

There you have it! All these questions are from motivated teachers like you who are working hard to implement a Math Workshop framework that makes math differentiation more manageable. 

If you’re anything like me, reading a list of questions always sparks a few new questions, so feel free to drop those in the comments below. 🙂

Interested in the resources featured in this blog post for your own classroom? Click the links below to hop over to my store.


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I’m Laura Santos

I’ve been an elementary teacher for ten years, and love sharing tips and resources that make differentiated learning more manageable for you. Thank you for visiting.

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