A Simple Math Center to Practice Number Sense

Hey there!  It's Alison from Ms. Lilypad's Primary Pond.  I'm a reading specialist now, and I love my job, but I do miss teaching math a teensy bit!

One part of teaching math that I loved was creating or finding math centers that gave me a lot of "bang for my buck" (meaning kids have to practice multiple skills in the center).  "Make 50" is one game I created that the kids loved!

To play, you'll need number cards (0-9, preferably 2 of each digit in the stack of cards), and a recording sheet (click on the picture at the end of this post to download).  To play, a child draws 4 number cards and uses those 4 digits to make 2 different numbers.  Next, the student has to decide if she will add or subtract those 2 numbers.  The object is to get as close to 50 as possible.  Once she has decided upon a number sentence, both students write down the number sentence on the recording sheets.  The child's partner takes a turn, and then the pair circles the number sentence that is closest to 50.

Here's an example:
1.  Tammy draws the number cards 1, 6, 4, 2.
2.  She makes the numbers 64 and 12.  She decides on a number sentence of 64-12=52.
3.  Tammy and her partner Juan write 64-12=52 on their recording sheets.
4.  Juan draws the number cards 0, 0, 7, 3.
5.  He makes the numbers 70 and 30.  He decides on a number sentence of 70-30=40.
6.  Juan and Tammy write 70-30=40 in the same row on the recording sheet where they wrote 64-12=52.
7.  After discussing, both children circle Sally's number sentence on the sheets.  They continue playing until the sheet is filled up, and then count up the total number of rounds they each won in order to determine who has won the whole game.

This game is appropriate for typical 2nd or 3rd graders.  And as you can imagine, it takes some practice for the kids to really understand how to play (and win!).  Practicing in a whole group and/or small group setting beforehand is extremely important.  Once they understand how to play, they will enjoy playing it over and over independently.

Click on the image to download the recording sheet!


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