Concept Teaching Games: What are they?

For thirty years now, Bank Street teachers attending EDUC 540 Mathematics for Teachers in Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms ( Pre K to 6th grade) have adapted their creative teaching ideas into a format that we call concept teaching games.  These games are different from a classroom activity where a teacher needs to be present and they are different from the more conventional games which usually are simple low level skill-reinforcement games.  Those two formats have a place in classrooms for sure, but the concept teaching game affords the player a chance to visit or 'revisit' a math concept.  With a concept teaching game a child has  the opportunity to learn the underlying, focused mathematical idea by seeing it, manipulating it, and discussing its meaning. 
Our goal is for each child to make meaning out of every math concept they are exposed to in school.  We who teach Math for Teachers have come to see concept teaching games as little 'assistant teachers' for classroom teachers.  For example, if you suddenly get a newly enrolled child to your roster, just have your kids invite the new child to play one of these concept teaching games.  You surely do not have time to  teach the whole new curriculum for that one child . If your class is well stocked with rich and powerfully designed games that actually can teach concepts in math you will be in good shape.  
We will be adding to this site each semester so keep on visiting it and download games that people have graciously offered for your use in your classrooms.  NOTE: These are not necessarily totally new games ; you may have seen some of them before....but each Bank Street 'student of teaching'  has adapted an idea for child use in a special and personal way.  Have fun providing rich math for your students.

Hal Melnick, Instructor and Adviser
Leadership in Math Education Program
Bank Street College of Education

Here's a sample game

Build a Thousand!!! 

Build a Thousand for ages 6-12


Adding tens and hundreds to make 1000 (1000 as a landmark number)

Pre-algebraic reasoning


NCTM Standard

K-5develop and use strategies for whole-number computations;

understand various meanings of addition and subtraction of whole numbers”


How to Play

1. Two players per game board. Players sit opposite each other, each with a side of the flip-up board facing them.


2. Players take turns spinning spinner.

• If spinner lands on a number (+10, +20, +30, +40, +50, +100) player takes that amount in base ten blocks. (If +10, then player takes one ten-block; if +20, then player takes two ten-blocks, etc.)

• If spinner lands on the word “draw,” student draws a card from the “Build 1000” deck, answers questions and follows directions on card. 


3. First player to build a solid 1000 (without going over) wins the game.


Materials needed: (per pair of players)


1. Set of Base-10 blocks (20 tens, 20 hundreds, optional 1 thousand block)

2. 1 Build 1000 game board                                               

3. 1 Build 1000 spinner

-12 sections: +10 (x3), +20, +30, +40, +50, +100, DRAW (x4)

4. 1 deck Build 1000 “DRAW” cards (16 cards in a deck)

- Half of cards in deck ask students to state their total, calculate what their total would be if they were to add 50, 100, or 200, then add that amount.

- Half of cards in deck ask students to state their total, calculate how much they need to complete the next hundred (then take that amount), or complete one thousand (then spin again). 

There are no Bookmarks for this set.

For you to read

This is the revision of an article I wrote some twenty years ago that was published in Bank Street's first Occasional Paper series.   The content is even more relevant now since today's  classrooms include children with varied learning styles, language differences , and varied strengths combined with learning disabilities.  Our challenge remains to teach a rigorous academic math program while adapting lessons and tools to meet our kids needs.  
In this article I attempt to define a Concept Teaching Game (as different from a skill reinforcement game) and show, as an example, one such game that my fourth graders designed using Pattern Blocks.  They taught me that any of the math tasks found in those traditional math texts can come alive with the use of good tools, ingenuity, and careful planning.  Enjoy the read but .... have your own collection of Pattern Blocks at hand and be ready to stretch your mind just like my students stretched mine!!! 
(.pdf, 127K)
I suggest you read through these NCTM Focal Points ( three key ideas for each grade) to help decide what important mathematical concepts your game might stem from.
(.pdf, 328K)