Math is Fun Again: 10 Engaging Math Activities for Upper Elementary Students

It can grow tiring using the same math activities over and over that don’t engage your upper elementary students like they once did. With trends changing and fads coming and going, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. While we want our students to be eager for math, we also want to save our own time and money when it comes to providing the math activities they do. So how can we mix things up, try some new approaches, and keep math from being boring while looking out for ourselves too? In this post, I will share a list of math activities that are sure to capture your students’ attention and keep them engaged so that they will be hooked on math!

Make math fun again with these 10 engaging math activities for upper elementary students. Check out these ideas to add to your next math lesson.

The math activities that I list below are activities that you should be able to do in virtually any upper elementary math content or topic. They can be used in math centers, as independent work, as a whole class activity, or in any way you desire to use them.

1. Math Literature. There are a large variety of books out there that teach math concepts in both the fiction and nonfiction genres that are engaging and fun. These books can be used in a mini-lesson of math workshop, as an entire math lesson itself, or as a starting point for a math unit. They can also be used for math problems or math work! Check out my Math Literature post to learn more.

2. Math Quests. When I was a child, my favorite books were the Create Your Own Adventure stories. I may be much (much!) older now, but I am still a child at heart. I just had to implement this theme into a math resource and thus, Math Quests were born. In these math quests, students work through math problems and a series of choices that take them on an engaging math adventure. Students love these math activities, it’s a great use of technology, and incorporates reading! You can’t go wrong here. You can learn more about Math Quests by checking out my post Math Quests: Choose Your Own Math Adventure.

3. Math Songs and Chants. Anytime you bring in rapping, songs, or mnemonics, children tend to remember things much better. In addition to meeting the learning style of some students, it’s also an engaging way to get students up and moving around a bit. (And is it just me, or do songs tend to stay in your head for a while?). Take any popular children’s song and change the lyrics to something about the math concept. It makes it catchy and fun for the children! Here’s an example of a circle song that we created one year to the “Wheels on the Bus” song that the kids just loved!

(I apologize for the quality of this image. It’s a really old image.)

4. Math Games. I love using math games in the classroom. If you were to stop by my TpT store you would see that I have several math games beyond what’s listed below (and more coming!). There are a variety of games out there that work well to help your students review important math skills and are engaging!

For example, there’s Placing the M&M’s which helps students practice place value of larger numbers…

Or Multiplication Fixation where students practice fact fluency. And, really, what child couldn’t use a little extra practice with their multiplication facts?

5. Mysteries. I don’t think there are many people in the world that don’t love a good mystery. I could be wrong. Mysteries are engaging, involve critical thinking, and generally create this need to complete it before you move on. This all applies to children too! So how can you bring mysteries into the classroom? Why not try my mystery cards? Students work through a set of cards answering math questions and the answer brings them one step closer to solving the mystery.

6. Color By Number. Color-by-number math activities work as a great early finisher activity and allow students to review the math concept they need to work on. Students enjoy coloring (I do too still as an adult) and it keeps them quiet for those few minutes when you need to just take a quick breather.

7. Math Puzzles. Puzzles are the perfect math activities to use in centers or for an early finisher activity. Students can also use these independently as a way to review important math concepts because they are self-checking. The puzzles I’m referring to are my Start2Finish Puzzles. In these puzzles, students begin with the start strip that has a math problem on it. Then they find the next strip that has the answer to that start strip in a star. They continue down the line until they end up with the finish strip. Students really love these puzzles!

8. Riddles. Ever since I was a kid I have always loved riddles, puns, and jokes. If you throw mystery in (as described above), you have quite the equation. There are many math picture books out there that include riddles, especially if you are familiar with Greg Tang that you can use to engage your students during math. Another option would be resources that reveal the answers to riddles and puns as students complete the resource such as my mixed-up mystery puzzles. Students cut out the mixed-up squares and glue the answer on top of the matching problem. When finished, the answer to the riddle will be revealed. Students can then color the image if they desire.

9. Project-Based Learning. I have definitely talked about project-based learning many times before on my site. A quick search in the bar over there will pull up many previous posts including Online PBL Projects for Elementary Students and Teaching Area Using Applied Math. Project-based learning allows students to apply their math skills to real-life situations and to use their higher-level thinking skills. The one below is my Area and Perimeter PBL Where students move furniture around to design their house.

10. Technology. What kid doesn’t love technology? While the majority of my resources do have both digital and print versions, I have some that are only digital. For instance, teachers love my riddle reveal cards where students practice math skills through the Boom Card Platform. As they progress, they uncover a picture that reveals a riddle. It’s the perfect activity for reviewing important math concepts.

These activities are all perfect for practicing and reviewing important math skills or for math centers in your classroom. You can also use them for early finishers. With these 10 engaging math activities, your students are sure to love math again!


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