Teach Through Games: Smath

Teach Through Games: Smath

smath2Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School

Description: I’ve played this Scrabble-esque math game for years with my students. It’s a great game for building math skills, simple to play, and entertaining for kids who love numbers. 

Skills & Modifications: This game is very easy to modify to meet the unique needs of your learners. Beyond the modificaitons described below, one modification I frequently make is that I do not use the Bonus Squares. This way I can focus on building math skills while maintaining speed of play. With some students, I forgo scoring all together, and we just focus on trying to build a “math crossword puzzle” using the tiles on our tile racks. 

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Set up for two players working on addition and subtraction. The number tile bag is on the left, along with a bowl filled with = signs.

Basic Operations – This game can be used to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I love that it’s easy to modify based on your individual learner’s needs. For example, I may modify the game by removing all the multiplication and division symbols so that we are only practicing addition and subtraction. I have also modified the game by separating all of the symbols, then sorting them into bowls. Then each learner only has numbers on his/her tile rack and selects the symbol he/she wants to use on their turn to complete an equation. It should be noted that the number tiles go from 0 – 12, so if you’re working on multiplication and division this game will only be appropriate for practice with basic equations.

Order of Operations – The game also includes bracket tiles, so learners can explore multiplciation that uses brackets, such as 2(2+3)=10 or do more complex math that requires the use of PEMDAS.

Algebraic Thinking – I frequently use this game to practice algebraic thinking skills. For example, I will help a learner start an equation on the board, such as placing the tiles 8 + ___ = 11. Then the learner has to scan the tiles on their tile rack and choose the 3 to complete the equation. 

Strategy – Encourage learners to utilize strategy to earn higher points on a turn. I usually teach strategies one at a time. For example, I might teach the strategy “Put the greater number on a Bonus Square” or “Use as many numbers as you can in your equation.”

Pros: I love that this game is very easy to modify, and that it can be easily played with learners of varying skill levels.

Cons: Sometimes the game can slow down a bit and your learner’s attention may wander. It may be helpful to modify this game by adding a time limit instead of playing through until all tiles are gone. I’ll set a time for 10 minutes or longer (depending on my student’s ability to attend to the game) and then we’ll tally points when the timer goes off. 

Ideas for extending the lesson: This game lends itself nicely to following up with math puzzles. that you find in many math textbooks. Depending on your learner’s current skill level, you may want to utilize some of the puzzles found here.

Cost: $15.95  You should invest in this game if: you teach math, are seeking games for practicing basic operations, or have a learner who is motivated by numbers. 

ABLLS: K15, R9, R20


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