Learning math can be stressful for some children, which is why we love games that can make the process enjoyable instead of daunting. Magic Squares, a great game shared with us by a creative veteran of the classroom, is too good not to share. There's a fair amount of set-up required, but if teachers laminate the board and cards, the game can last for years.
Magic Squares is excellent for children in first through third grades. To create the game, an adult should create a grid of 100 squares that is ten squares high by ten squares wide. This is the board. Each square should be numbered from 1 to 100.
Number cards are also needed. On squares of paper, the adult should write digits ranging from 1 to 100. There is no need to do this 100 times; ten or so cards with randomly selected numbers written on them should suffice*. The number cards should go into a bag.
Finally, the adult should make action cards, which will show operations. The operations can vary based on the age and skill of the players. For example, some cards could say "+10" or "+2" and others could say "-5" or "-3."**
To play the game, each player should draw five action cards; these can be kept secret or laid out on the table face-up. Then the adult should toss a penny onto the board. Whichever number it lands on is the starting point. Then the adult should draw a number card. For example, imagine that the penny landed on 32 and the adult drew a 20. The players must move the penny by using their operation cards. Each player gets the chance to play a card to get the penny closer to 20. The first student might play a "-10", for example, and move the penny to 22. The second student might play a "-1" to move the penny to 21. (Each time an action card is played, the player should discard it and draw a new card from the pile.) There is no winner in this game; since the students must work together to move the penny to the right number, they should all earn a small prize each time they succeed, such as a point toward a common prize, a single Skittle, etc.
The students we observed loved this game so much they actually groaned when it was time to go home for the day! We hope you enjoy it as much as they did.
*For beginners, multiples of 10 (e.g. 30, 70) are probably best.
** For beginners, operations should be limited to +5, +10, -5, and -10.