The Simple-but-High-Leverage Game Collection: Making Games Routine

We use instructional routines in part because their predictable structure allows students to focus on the mathematics. So why don’t we do this with simple, high leverage games?

Games aren’t just about “practice” and fluency. My favorite games create opportunities for learning, too. They spark discourse, promote the use of strategies, and allow students to dig into the mathematics.

In fact, many of my favorite high leverage games have some features in common. They’re:

  • Accessible
    Students should be able to engage with the game using multiple strategies.
  • Simple
    The rules should be easy enough to model so that it can be learned quickly, and become routine. That way students can spend more energy focusing on the mathematical ideas and understandings. There’s a time and a place for complicated, Cones-of-Dunshire games, but a 15 minute block in math class probably isn’t that place.
  • Flexible; mathematical content can be altered
    The games can be played repeatedly, at many different grade levels, with changes to the content.
  • Encourage Strategies
    These games have an element of choice that allows students to develop strategies and take an active role in game-playing.
  • Likely to engage students in the standards for mathematical practice (SMPs)
    My favorite games allow students opportunities to engage in the SMPs! Students might look for and make use of structure, or critique the reasoning of others, or
  • Limited to a few basic materials
    There are a number of games that I love that require special game boards or materials prepped in advance. However, this collection of games stands out because they can be played with very minimal physical prep! Nothing needs to be photocopied in advance. With about 30 seconds notice, your class can play many of these games.

The Games


  1. This is one of my favorite games|activities|conversations. Thank you for the detailed narration on how you move kids through conversations about their work. Am looking forward to trying out some of your moves|suggestions. Happy Tuesday!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love for you to report back! I am always looking to improve my own facilitation, too. The moves impact how the learning is cultivated, and how productive the conversations are, so, yes, ideas always welcome. 🙂


      1. Have added it to the agenda for our summer math camp in July!! Have been looking for something that has a different look to it with the structure of an instructional routine. Will make a note so that we remember to share what we did.

        Liked by 1 person

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