We are kicking off the first week of Camp Mathematics with a simple, quick and fun counting game. This math game looks deceptively simple but it exercises kids’ logic and reasoning skills. It’s a good early math activity in preparation for addition and subtraction but I played a few rounds with my soon-to-be 5th grader and he enjoyed beating me (ahem). Best of all, it’s quick, takes no prep time and is easy to learn.
What you need:
- 11 stackable counters. 10 in one color and 1 in a different color. We used black and white poker chips, (affiliate link) which are extremely handy if you play a lot of DIY games at home (don’t worry, my kids are not gambling). You can also use checkers, or even flat blocks.
- 2 enthusiastic players
How to play “Counting Down”
Objective: to force your opponent to pick up the black (the last) chip.
- Stack the white chips on top of the black chip.
- Determine who will go first.
- Taking turns, players picks up 1, 2 or 3 chips from the top of the stack.
- Whoever is left with the last chip loses.
It’s that simple!
TIP: You don’t necessarily need different color chips. You can play with 11 chips and whoever is stuck with the last one, loses.
TIP: After 1 or 2 rounds kids will see that in order to win they need to leave 4 white counters on top of the black one. If they are able to do that, it becomes impossible for their opponent to win. This will lead to some strategizing and you can start to vary the game rules to tickle their little brains even more (see below).
A few questions to ask your kids while they play this counting game:
Is it better to go first or second?
What number of white chips do you ultimately want to leave on top of the black one so your opponent can’t force you to pick up the black chip?
What happens if you play with 11 white chips and 1 black chip instead? (Then try it!)
What happens if you can only remove 1 or 2 chips instead of up to 3? (Then try it!)
Watch my son soundly beat me:
What are kids learning?
- Counting backwards practices the skills needed for subtraction.
- They are learning to think strategically.
- They are using their reasoning skills.
- They are learning to plan ahead (games like this build executive function).
Got any other simple counting games your kids love?
See more of our favorite math activities in action!
This is the first post in a 6 week series. Last year Megan at Coffee Cups and Crayons and I teamed up to bring you a DIY Summer Science Camp and this year we are bringing you 12 fun and easy math activities to do with your kids this summer. Each week will will focus on a different aspect of math. This week we are looking at counting and quantity.
Visit Megan’s post because she is showing you how to make an abacus!