Using Math Bingo in the Classroom
I don’t know about you, but my students always went crazy over bingo! It’s such a simple game, but what can I say? They loved it. Bingo was a regular go-to to help review educational concepts, or just for fun during holidays are class parties! I especially loved using math bingo to support my students in math.
Obviously, bingo is a fun game – but can it really be all that educational? Or is it all just fluff? Personally, I believe that bingo can be an incredibly rigorous activity – as long as it’s used correctly! Let’s explore how we can use bingo in the classroom to help improve student understanding.
Why Use Bingo in the Classroom?
First, let’s chat for a second about why I think everyone should play bingo in the classroom! Here are a few of my top reasons:
- It’s low-prep.
- It’s engaging.
- Bingo is a great way to review concepts.
- As you’re about to find out – it’s rigorous!
Bingo takes no time at all to prep. Just pass out the bingo cards and something to use as markers, and you’re set! This also makes it a great last minute activity for those days when you just need a break or have a few extra minutes.
As I mentioned before, kids love it. I don’t know what it is about bingo that gets students excited, but they are so engaged! Bingo makes a great review game after learning a particular concept.
Now that you’re convinced, onto how to make it rigorous…
How to Use Math Bingo
Bingo can definitely be a fluffy activity. And while a fluffy activity may be okay for a holiday class party, it’s not okay for academics. If you’re going to use bingo as part of your math lesson, then you’ll want to make sure you aren’t using fluffy bingo.
What is fluffy bingo, you ask? Good question! A fluffy activity is one that doesn’t require any critical thinking. In bingo, this might look like the teacher calling out a number and students identifying that same number on their board. All students have to do is find the number you called. That’s it.
Now, I do think this can be helpful for practicing sight words or number recognition for the littles; however, for older grades, this is too easy. A better way to use math bingo for older grades is to call out a number sentence and have students find the answer on their board.
An even better way than that would be to call out an answer and have students find a matching number sentence on their board.
The key here is to get students thinking! It shouldn’t be as easy as simply searching for the answer. There are times when that’s appropriate (we’ll discuss those), but most of the time, we should try to incorporate critical thinking as much as possible.
Examples of Rigorous Math Bingo
Here are some examples of how you can make bingo more rigorous for some major math concepts:
For place value, give students a board with multiple random numbers on it (up to however many digits you’d like). The teacher will call out either a digit in a place, or the value of a digit (1 in the tens place, or tens place has a value of 10). Students will then search their board for a number that matches this description and mark it off.
This is rigorous because students are practicing identifying the place and value of digits. Another way you could do place value bingo is by giving a board that has numbers written in their different forms – expanded, standard, and unit – and calling out the word form of the number for students to identify. In this version, students are practicing identifying the value of numbers in different forms.
We’ve already talked about this one briefly, but for addition and subtraction, you can either have students find the answer to an equation or the equation to an answer. If you do the latter, you may wish to allow them to solve each equation on their board first, to save time during the game. If you are only doing simple equations, however, this is less important.
Multiplication & Division
Bingo for multiplication & division can look very similar to addition and subtraction bingo – give an equation and students find the answer, or vice versa. If you teach a lower grade level, however, your students may not be quite at that level yet. In this case, you can give a number and have students find the repeated addition sentence, array, or equal groups representation that shows the same total.
Fraction bingo can be as simple as calling out “one-fourth” and having students identify 1/4 on their board, but that’s a little fluffy for my taste. If you teach a grade level where students only have to identify fractions, then use visual representations of the fractions for students to identify instead.
Of course, if you teach an older grade, then you can get a little more creative with equivalent fractions, improper fractions, and adding fractions.
My recommendation for money bingo is to call out an amount of money and have students identify the visual representation of it on their board. You can do this with coins, bills, or a combination of both.
If you’re in Texas and required to teach personal finance, then you can use some of the major vocabulary words (savings, interest, loan, etc.) on the board and read out the definition of each one.
For time, I highly recommend students searching for the analog representation of each time, since this is generally the hardest concept for students. If you teach elapsed time, then my recommendation would still be to use analog clocks on the bingo boards, but to instead call out an elapsed time problem (30 minutes after 1:45).
Lastly, for geometry math bingo, you can get away with being a little fluffy. Since a big part of geometry at the elementary level is shape recognition, it’s okay to just call out the name of a shape and have students identify the picture of it on their boards.
If you want to make it a little more rigorous, though, call out attributes of the shapes instead. They can search for either a picture or the name of the shape on their board (or a mix of both). This will add an extra level of rigor if you are working on attributes of shapes.
How to Make Math Bingo
If you wish to make your own bingo cards for math, there are a couple ways you can do this:
- Use a free online bingo generator, such as My Free Bingo Cards. This makes it incredibly easy to create your own bingo cards; however, it is important to note that you can’t create a board with pictures on it using this app.
- Create bingo cards manually in PowerPoint using a table. Simply insert a table that is 5×5 and add in the numbers/words/pictures in each square. This is more time consuming, and you may need to search for clip-art if using images. However, you can be sure your cards look exactly the way you want by using this method!
“But I’m too busy and don’t want to take the time to make my own bingo cards!”
Well, you’re in luck!! I have pre-made bingo cards all ready to go for you. These are ideal for 2nd and 3rd grade, and some of the topics have two versions available. You can check them out here, or by clicking the picture below.