Twister GameYou remember the Twister game. Someone spins and a player places his right foot on a blue circle. The person spins again and the next player places her left hand on a red circle. This continues until … everybody gets twisted.

Math Twister puts a new twist, or if you prefer, a new spin, on the old Twister game. The number of ways it can be played is limited only by your imagination. It can be played indoors, using a commercial or homemade Twister mat, or outdoors, using sidewalk chalk, and it’s great for any group of kids, whether they are in kindergarten, elementary school, after school, or home school.

For each version of the game, you will pick a “base number” that will be used in every turn. Then you will write a number on each of the positions on the spinner. Finally, you’ll write the answers in the circles on the mat. One person will spin and call out the problems. You can have all of the players place their hands or feet on the right circles for every problem, or you can have one player move for each spin. (Note: I’m using wet-erase markers for the spinner and the mat, but do a test with your markers to make sure the numbers will wipe off with water.)

Twister spinner with numbersI’ll give you an example for the multiplication version, borrowed from the CCafterschool channel on YouTube. This is going to sound confusing, but the video makes it clear, so please do watch it. Let’s pick “6” for our base number because we want to work on multiplying 6 times 6, 7, 8, and 12. The spinner will have the number 6, 7, 8, or 12 written on each spin position, with all four numbers represented in each quarter of the spinner. The mat will have 36, 42, 48, or 72 written on each circle, with each number being written on one of each color of circle. Now let’s say the spinner person spins: left foot, green, 7. Then all the players (or a single player) move their left foot to a red circle with a 42 (6×7) on it. Then it’s time for another spin.

There are some obvious variations on Multiplication Twister, including Division Twister, Addition Twister, and Subtraction Twister. Here are some other possibilities I’ve thought of and would like to try.

Twister MathSign Twister. This can be based on any of the four variations above, except that the game would include positive and negative numbers. What a great way to practice: -6 x -7 = 42!

Fractions Twister. This could work just like any of the four variations above, except that instead of whole numbers, the spinner would contain fractions. The base number could be a whole number or a fraction. The answers on the mat could represent either the direct answer, e.g., 1/4 + 1/4 = 2/4, or the equivalent (reduced) fraction, 1/2.

Exponents Twister. Ah, now we’re talking! In this version, the base number could represent either the base of the problem (e.g. the 7 in the problem “What is 7 to the power 2″) or the exponent (the 2).

Roots Twister. This one would work just like Exponents Twister except that the base number would represent the order of the root (square root, cube root, fourth root, …) and the spinner would contain the numbers inside the radical (inside the root symbol). So for each spin, you would ask questions like, “What is the cube root of 27? Or, “What is the cube root of 125?”

I’m sure there are other ways to use this idea, and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to try them out, starting this weekend! This will be my first weekly session with a group of 4th to 6th grade girls, and I plan to introduce them to several math games, including Twister. Games are a great way to show kids that math can be fun. Whether you use Twister or some other game, you will see a difference in your child’s attitude about math.

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