Top 5 Favorite Elementary Math Activities

For elementary school teachers, math is a contact sport. Manipulatives, blocks and, as many teachers shared,  “anything hands-on“ all stimulate effective math learning.  We polled hundreds of teachers and here’s what they say are their Top 5 math activities.

Online Games

Not surprisingly, many teachers told us that a top way to motivate students is with math games. They’re fun, can be played with classmates and provide concept reinforcement.  Games can be a great complement to classroom learning. As several teachers shared, it’s like “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  As a reference, we’ve listed an article below with some of the more popular math games.  Let the Games begin!

Number Talks

Number Talks are short, daily exercises on building number sense. Teachers start by giving students a short math problem that can be solved in your head.  Students then share and defend their solutions and strategies for problem-solving. This is a great interactive activity and for teachers less familiar with number talks, we’ve included a reference below for you.  It’s time to start talking numbers.

Addition and Subtraction

Whether they are beads, dominoes, cards, marbles — or just about anything you find hiding in your house — teachers excite students with all types of counting exercises. While a high school Algebra classroom might be austere, an elementary math class is usually a collection of color and objects. Or put mathematically:  Math Classroom + Many Objects = Great Learning Environment.

Number Bonds

For those who teach upper grades and don’t know, number bonds help students see that numbers can be “broken“ into pieces to make computation easier. That concept became popular in the 1970s and later but the term actually started in the 1920s.  A teacher shared, “There are a few things that have changed my life: getting married, having children, the number bond.”  Wow.  Now that’s an endorsement.


Manipulatives are by far, the #1 math activity according to teachers. Manipulatives help students learn new concepts and relate these ideas to what they’ve already learned. They assist students in solving problems and seeing mathematical relationships. One teacher said, “It’s usually the most exciting part of my students’ day.“  Manipulatives bridge the real world and the mathematical world.  And what child doesn’t like building things?

Source: ESGI-ThinkFives Survey

To Learn More

Math Activities:

Math Games:

Number Bonds:

Do you have math activities that you recommend? Comment below.


  1. Multiplication tables have been pretty effective for me to remember the multiplications between numbers.

    I also like speed math rounds, where I compete with other students on simple arithmetic problems when a addition, multiplication, division, or subtraction problem is shown on a flashcard, and we have to get it before the other person do.

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