How to Play The Best Math Bingo Game EVER
Your girls are going to love this math bingo game sooooo much!
I was amazed by how popular this game was with kids, right out of the gate. Girls were literally jumping out of their seats with excitement as they called out complicated math equations.
To be clear, these were the same girls who’d had a rather cringing relationship with math just a few months before. One very polite little girl told me, “Let’s just say I’m more of a reading person.”
But here she was, hand waving in the air, bouncing on her toes and calling out math equations with the best of them. “This bingo game,” I thought, “is magic.”
Why Girls Love This Math Game So Much
The Best Ever Math Bingo Game was inspired by Jo Boaler’s “Four 4’s” activity–one of my all time favorite math explorations to do with kids.
I wanted to create a similar sort of experience in a game–something kids could do in ten minutes, brought out that kind of creativity and deep thinking, AND could get them jumping out of their seats.
Here’s my take on why girls love this game so much:
- It’s collaborative–not competitive. All the players work together to get Bingo (or Blackout) so there is no pressure for one kid to be fastest or best. All the players feel like important contributors and help each other out.
- There are many right answers. Kids can be creative and come up with a unique solution. That feels so cool to a kid.
- It’s Bingo! Because seriously, who doesn’t love Bingo?
Ok, ’nuff talk. Let’s play!
Set Up Your Math Bingo Game
All you need is a piece of paper and a die–or you can use a free dice app on your phone.
- Draw or print a 5×5 grid.
- Fill in the squares randomly with numbers 1 to 25. Don’t repeat any numbers.
- Roll the die four times. Write the four numbers you rolled along the bottom of your game board:
4 2 6 3
This is the game board I made. Yours will probably look a little different. All the players will use the same game board.
Now you’re ready to play.
How to Play
THE GOAL: Cross out 5 in a row to get Bingo
THE RULES: Use all four of the numbers you rolled in a math problem, then cross off the answer on the game board.
Players raise their hand when they have a solution, then say how they got to that number. If the other players agree that it works, cross off that number on the board.
- You must use ALL of the numbers you rolled, exactly once (unless you rolled the same number twice, in which case use that number twice).
- You may not use any other numbers.
- You will use those same four numbers for the entire game.
- You may use any kind of math that results in a whole number on the grid (no decimals or rounding).
- You may combine digits to make larger numbers.
Here are some equations using our four numbers. So far, we’ve crossed off 3, 15, 8, 11, 6 4, and 21 from our Bingo board.
4 + 2 – 6 + 3 = 3
3 x 4 + (6 ÷ 2) = 15
(6 – 4) + (2 x 3) = 8
4 x 2 + 6 – 3 = 11
2 x 6 ÷ 4 + 3 = 6
42 ÷ 6 – 3 = 4
63 – 42 = 21
Get Bingo when your group has crossed off an entire row, column, or diagonal line.
At some point, the players will get stuck. It’s time to pull out the big guns…
Math Bingo Game Advanced Tricks
When kids hit a stuck place, I tell them, “I have a few math tricks that might help you get some new numbers. Let me know when you’re ready for one.”
It usually doesn’t take long. At some point, they’ll ask for a math trick, I’ll teach it to them, and they use it to find more numbers on the Bingo board.
I dole my tricks out one by one when they say they’re ready. I don’t worry about whether it might be too advanced for that age; I just share the trick and let the kids decide.
You can use the numbers you rolled to make a fraction:
4/2 + 6 – 3 = 5
6/2 + 4 + 3 = 10
6/2 x 4 – 3 = 9
Remember though, you can’t add digits other than the ones you rolled, so you could not make the fraction 1/2 with the numbers above.
Don’t be scared off by the fancy math name. I didn’t discover factorials myself until a few years ago, but they’re easy enough for a kid to understand–and very helpful in this game. A factorial looks like a number with an exclamation point:
To find the value of a factorial, you will multiply all the counting numbers up to that number. For example:
3! = 1 x 2 x 3
4! = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4
“Three factorial” would be 1 x 2 x 3, or 6. So if you rolled a 3 in your Bingo game and wrote it as a factorial, you could use 3! as a 6. Sweet!
(4 x 3!) – (6 – 2 ) = 20
(6 x 3!) – 24 = 12
3. Numbers Squared
If you rolled a 2, you could write a number squared:
32+4 +6 = 19
A number squared is that number multiplied times itself. 32 = 3×3 = 9
Note that you can only square a number in this game if you roll a 2.
4. Square Root
When you write a number as a square root, it looks like this:
A square root is the number you get when you multiply two of the same number together. Some square roots equal a whole number, but many do not:
√3… What number times itself equals 3?
√4… What number times itself equals 4?
√5… What number times itself equals 5?
The square root of √5 is 2.2360679775, which is really not helpful in this game.
But if you rolled a 4, that’s handy. The square root of 4 is 2, since 2×2=4. That means if you rolled a 4, you can write it as a square root and use it as a 2:
√4 + (6 x 3) +2 = 22
Note that the square root of 9 is useful too, but most dice only go up to 6.
Hey, look at that…we got a bingo! Can you use the numbers 2, 4, 3 and 6 to get another bingo…or even a blackout?
Math Bingo Game Tips from the Trenches
I’ve tried a bunch of variations of this math bingo game, and some things worked better than others.
- I tried a competitive version, where every child has their own math bingo board. It wasn’t nearly as fun as this collaborative version. This version removes the stress and lets players learn from each other.
- Some kids have a hard time forming equations. I tell them to just put the numbers down with some random math symbols to see what they come up with. This almost always results in a solution they hadn’t planned on, but helps the game.
- I tried having kids respond one at a time. I found it more fun (and the kids liked it better) when we did it “popcorn style”, with everyone calling out solutions as they thought of them. (But I do call on quieter kids to give them air time if they want it.)
- A lot of kids want to keep going after getting a bingo, and try for “Blackout”–crossing off ALL the numbers on the board!