The Birds and Worms Math Game: K-5

Posted on May 29, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Guest Blogger: Ann Elise Record

      One of the most versatile and addicting math games I’ve come across is Birds and Worms!  I first learned about this game from Stephanie Engle , a grade 4 teacher at Hillsboro-Deering Elementary School in Hillsboro, NH using dice with fractions.  I’m not sure who invented the game, but they are brilliant!  The first rule of the game is that you can make the rules be whatever you want them to be such as how you start and end the game.  At the heart of the game,  students roll 10 Birds and Worms dice (I buy blank wooded cubes from Amazon and make them myself – OR you can use the Birds and Worms cards that Dr. Nicki created) that have the numbers 1-9 (in the Add Make 10 version) on them as well as some birds and worms. Any combination of dice/cards that makes 10 makes one apple and scores one point.  Additionally, one bird will eat one worm and one worm will eat one apple.  Students keep track of the apple points they score. If you only roll worms, then the worms will eat any apples you have. If you only roll birds, then there is no problem because the birds won’t eat the apples.  You could decide to end the game when one student scores a predetermined amount of points, or you can end the game once each student has a certain number of turns.  I prefer this latter method because then I have students roll a die that has 3 “more” and 3 “less” sides to determine the winner. I don’t want students to become disengaged if they feel like they aren’t winning while playing the game.

            This game is applicable to so many other math concepts! As I mentioned, the first version of this game I learned about from Ms. Engle was with fractions with like denominators using eighths. The point of the game was to combine fractions that make 1 whole.  You can decide whether students need to make exactly one whole to score a point or whether having a sum over 8/8 will score a point.  Additionally, if you make 16/8 exactly you can score two apple points.  What a perfect way to refresh students’ memories about fractions during the year before fraction concepts are officially taught. To make the game more rigorous, you can introduce dice with fractions over one or even have dice with other denominators.  This format can easily  be adapted for decimals as well.  Ms. Engle assured me that her students played this game all year and never got tired of it.  I’ve now seen the enjoyment first-hand with the students in my school and I can attest to the fact that they love it!

Click here for game pieces.  

Ann Elise Record

P.S. video:



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