Math Icebreaker Games

Updated February 21, 2017

Students often dread doing mathematics, so opening the first day of math class with an enjoyable math icebreaker game will allow students not only to get to know each other but hopefully see that math can be fun. Sometimes students assert that they'll never need the math they learn in school "in the real world," so these activities should show students that math is both relevant and prevalent outside of school.

Become Acquainted Bingo

Give students a Bingo card when they walk through the door. Each square of the card should have personal data that contains math, instead of numbers. For example, one square could say, "Someone who has a number of kids in the family which is divisible by three," or "Someone whose last two digits in his phone number add up to a number greater than eight," or "Someone who has a number of pens in his book bag that is less than five but greater than three" and so on. Students have to mingle throughout the room to find students who match the information on each square. When they find that person, they have to write the person's initials in the appropriate square. Students must then continue mixing, finding a different student for each square. Later, students can share their discoveries with the class.

Think Fast

Divide students into groups for this particular activity, so that no one feels put on the spot. Tell them that being able to multiply and add numbers quickly in their heads is a skill they'll need for life. Start by throwing out some problems to the class, such as 35 times 18 or 16 times 88. You also could throw monetary amounts at them, such as asking them to add £15.10 plus £30.6. The goal is to keep the atmosphere light and to let the groups feel comfortable yelling out answers. The group that has someone respond first with a correct answer gets a point. Have a prize for the winning group and consolation prizes for the other groups to get off to a good start.

Fizz Buzz

According to Dr. Mike's Math Games for Kids, Fizz Buzz is an appropriate math icebreaker for kids because its silliness and fast pace helps kids to relax, and it forces "players to quickly analyse a number in several different ways. It helps push certain multiplication facts into long-term memory by associating them with strong emotions." Students stand in a circle and one student begins by picking a number from one to 99. The next person in the circle says the next number in sequence, and so on. However, if a number has a five in it or is divisible by five, the person must say "fizz" instead of the number. And if a number has a seven in it or is divisible by seven, the person must say "buzz." For example, you wouldn't say the number 35, instead you would say, "Fizz, fizz, buzz." If someone makes a mistake, he is either out of the game or he has to accumulate a number of strikes until he is out. The last remaining player is the winner.

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About the Author

Lane Cummings is originally from New York City. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in dance before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in literature and her Master of Arts in Russian literature at the University of Chicago. She has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lectured and studied Russian. She began writing professionally in 2004 for the "St. Petersburg Times."