{FREE} Integer Operations Game: Gingerbread Dash

Want a fun way to review skills before the Christmas break? This cute and low-prep integer operations game is perfect for a math center, partner practice or sub plans with your middle schoolers in December.

Although it is certainly not a favorite topic for any middle school students that I know, I absolutely love teaching integer operations. I love helping students visualize the “why” behind things like subtracting a negative number is the same as adding. Seeing these “rules” demystified as different representations or strategies help integers finally “click” for students is such a joy! But just like any other math skill, once students start to understand the why and the how, they still need a lot of exposure and practice. I created this simple Christmas themed integer operations game for my own students and my own kids (who have played it multiple times!) so I hope you enjoy using it with your students as well!

Understanding Integer Operations:

Often the approach to integer operations is to post a set of rules (or “tricks”) for students to learn and memorize. Then they practice one particular rule over and over until they “master” it.

Unfortunately, when taught this way, integer operations become a set of nonsensical rules that don’t follow any previous patterns and are hard to remember.

Having taught 8th and 9th grade to students who “already learned” integer operations, I can say with confidence this strategy does not work.

Kids then throw common sense out the window and start applying the “rules” in ways that don’t make sense and end up with answers that don’t make sense.

Instead, I use a variety of strategies to introduce integers with a meaningful context (real life examples) and visuals such as +/- charts or two-colored chips and number lines.

Rather than rushing through, I take it slow and make sure students can grab onto a visual or strategy that makes sense to them and encourage them to always stop and ask if their final answer makes sense.

For example, using money and thinking about integers as money in the bank (positive value) or being in debt (negative value) helps kids to see naturally what happens when you earn money or pay out money (if you pay out more than you have in the bank, now you’re in debt or have a negative balance).

I also use a +/- chore chart to help students see integer operations and what happens when you add or subtract positive and negative values.

This is especially helpful for showing kids what happens when you subtract (or take away/remove) negatives from your number. In other words: your total increases as you remove negatives.

And the great thing is, once your students have mastered addition and subtraction, moving on to multiplication and division with integers seems like a walk in the park!

Integer Operations Practice:

Once you’ve laid a solid foundation, you can add in fun practice games like this one!

Because working with integers is a skill kids will use all learn long, it is essential to build fluency and confidence to move forward.

I hope this simple integer operations game is one way you can provide a fun review for your students!

Integers Game Set Up:

To begin setting up the game, you will need to print the materials needed. This includes a game board, the spinner and the recording page. You will also need a die, game pieces and a paperclip for the spinner.

I recommend printing the game board and spinner on card stock paper and laminating them for durability.

Then be sure to print a recording page for each player, and provide some sort of game pieces and a die to move around the board.

Finally, you will need a paperclip to use with the spinner. Students then hold it in place with their pencil and spin the clip on their turn.

Add, Subtract and Multiply Integers:

As they play the game, students will practice adding, subtracting and multiplying integers.

To start, all players place their game pieces on “start” on the game board. They also start with a score of zero on their recording sheet. They will then use the recording sheet to keep a tally of their score as they go along.

On each turn, players roll the die to move around the board.

Then they spin the spinner to get a math operation.

They then create a math equation using the operation and the value they land on.

For example, they start with zero. If they then spin “multiply” and land on “+3” their equation would be 0 x (+3) = 0.

They’re new score is now 0. If on the next turn they spin “add” and land on “-10” their equation would be 0 + (-10) = -10.

Their new score is now -10.

The fun thing about this game is that given the nature of integer operations, things can change very quickly.

Since the goal of the game is to be the player with the highest score in the end, you can have great math conversations as students play.

For example, if they have a large negative value, ask them what they want to land on to increase their score. Or ask what would happen if they subtract a negative or multiply by a negative.

With some practice, students won’t just be computing with integers, they will start to see patterns and understand what is needed to increase their score to ultimately win the game.

A Quick Note about the Gingerbread Integer Operations Game

Having played this with my kids, I have seen that it doesn’t usually take them long to “reach the finish” on the game board.

If your students reach the finish but are not ready to call it quits, have them go back to start and continue cycling through the game board as they fill in their recording sheet.

There’s a lot of room on the recording sheet, so another option for ending the game is for each player to fill out each row of the recording sheet (12 turns each) regardless of where they end up on the game board.

If your students get competitive like mine, this may be preferable!

However you play, I hope this provides a fun and welcome review and change of pace for your students during the holiday craziness!

{Click HERE to go to my shop and grab the FREE Gingerbread Dash Integer Operations Game!}

Looking for more Pre-Algebra resources? Check out the ideas below!

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