How To Play Cross Out Singles — The Best Marilyn Burns Math Game

When your kid needs addition help but won’t admit it, play this super-fun Marilyn Burns math game for some sneaky, playful practice!

Kids think of math as a checklist: addition and subtraction in first grade, big numbers in second grade, multiplication in third grade, and so on. Once they’ve checked that box, they’re DONE.

Unfortunately, we grownups know from experience that if you don’t use it you lose it. Many a fifth grader ends up counting on her fingers to add simple sums, simply because she’s “done” with addition.

The solution: play a game that sneakily helps her get better at math!

Introducing my all-time FAVORITE addition strategy game: Cross Out Singles, my favorite of all Marilyn Burns math games! Check out more of her fun math ideas here.

Cross Out Singles is a game that is easy to play, but challenging to win. A young child can play entirely by luck and get some good addition practice, but your older child will quickly become more strategic–and do a lot more mental math in the process!

I love so many things about this game:

  1. It’s a nice mix of strategy and luck
  2. No fancy materials; can easily draw your own game board
  3. You can play it with 2 players or a whole room of kids
  4. Adults and mixed age siblings can play together
  5. Kids get lots of addition practice, but it doesn’t “feel” like math

Here’s a step by step look at how to play the Cross Out Singles addition game, then I’ll share a few tips below on how to get the most out of playing it.

How To Play “Cross Out Singles”

YOU WILL NEED: One die, and a Cross Out Singles game board for each player (or you can draw your own)

  1. Your game board is made up of a 9-box grid, with seven circles around the outside edge as shown:
Marilyn Burns Cross Out Singles game board

2. Roll one die and say the number out loud. Each player writes that number on their board in one of the boxes.

3. Roll the die a total of 9 times until you have filled in all 9 boxes.

Cross Out Singles addition game first step

4. Add the numbers in the three rows across, the three columns down, and diagonally. Write the sums in the circles.

How to add numbers in Marilyn Burns math game Cross Out Singles

5. Look in the circles for numbers that appear more than once. In this game, the 7s and 10s appear more than once. Cross off all the numbers in circles that do NOT appear more than once.

Cross Out Singles math game by Marilyn Burns, how to score

(The unique scoring adds a fun plot twist that keeps kids interested and challenged, and they want to play again and again.)

6. Add the circled numbers that are left. 10+10+7+7=34. My score for this round is 34 points.

7. Say the score you got that round. What other scores did people get?

8. Play 3 or 4 times in a row. Players will improve their addition strategy (and mental addition skills) the more they play!

Tips For Playing The Marilyn Burns Math Game “Cross Out Singles”

TIP 1: Don’t explain the scoring until the END of the first round.

In the first round of play, simply roll the die and tell players to write the number in any box. Explain how scores work when you get to that part of the game–it’s easier to understand.

TIP 2: Play at least 3 games in a row.

Play a few rounds in a row. Each time, she’ll get a little better and experiment with strategy.

TIP 3: Let younger kids use a calculator to add or check their scores.

So that’s how you play my favorite Marilyn Burns math game, Cross Out Singles! Leave a note in the comments–what does YOUR child think of this game?


  1. Love this idea! I am going to try it with some of my students today. Is the goal a high score or a low score?

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