Let Your Math Facts “Sparkle”

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

There’s a popular spelling game used in the classroom called Sparkle. Students stand in a circle and each student says one letter of the word. The student who says the last letter of the word sits down. The teacher then gives them another word. Play continues until the last man is standing. Why not play the Sparkle game for math?

Today I was guest teaching in a 4th-grade class, and we played Sparkle using multiples. It’s very similar to the spelling version. Students stood in a circle, and for each round I chose a different number to skip-count by. We started with 5’s, since the game was new to them, and I wasn’t sure how fluent they were with their facts. We skip counted by 5’s to 50, so the student who said 50 was the one who sat down. Then we started over again at 5. That round went really well, so I decided to try 3’s, skip-counting from 3 to 36. That was a little more challenging, but through the combination of the competitive aspect of the game and the repetitive nature of it, I could see the students quickly gaining confidence with their 3’s. This is such a fun and engaging way to practice facts!

BTW, I also saw the same concept used in a Kindergarten class last week. The students were practicing counting to 20 starting from any number. They started at 8 and counted to 20, so the student to say 20 sat down and the counting started again at 8.

Leave a comment below to share what made your day special. 🙂

 

48 Comments

  1. Beth Korda

    Love this idea!! We play Sparkle every week to practice spelling words. I can’t wait to play Math Sparkle.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The kiddos really loved it, Beth, and it was amazing to see how quickly they improved their skills!

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      We play a slightly different version of SPARKLE. We each spell a letter, then the next person has to say SPARKLE when he/she knows the word is completely spelled. The person FOLLOWING the SPARKLE caller is the one to sit. That keeps the students totally engrossed since they must pay close attention to know when a spelled word is complete.!

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    My daughter shared this with me, but we call it BUZZ. When a student gets to a multiple they say BUZZ instead of the number. My third graders LOVE it.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, it’s also called BUZZ! And that’s even a different way to use it with math! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Nancy C

    Love this idea – Simple yet effective! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      That’s the best kind, right Nancy? 🙂

      Reply
  4. Jamie Riggs

    I’m going to try this with my 5th grade resource class tomorrow. They are really struggling with multiples, but I think they will really enjoy this! Thanks tons!

    Mathematically yours,
    MissMathDork!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Trust me, they will love it! Be sure to report back!

      Reply
  5. TheElementary MathManiac

    I love this game and I find that kids of ALL ages love it too. We play it even with the fifth and sixth graders when we are counting with fractions or decimals.

    Today my fourth graders made my day really special. We were building and graphing growing patterns and they were noticing things about slope and lines and graphing that are well beyond the standards for grade 4. They got me so excited to be teaching algebra!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
  6. Fontenot's Firebreathers

    I have done this the last 2 days! They love it! They get upset when they have to sit down….as the year ends we are working on fluency (still) and they begged to do it today!! It was fun!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Woo hoo! Begging for math…what could be better?

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I place this game with my first graders for our math warm-up sometimes. They love it! 🙂

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Right! It’s so engaging! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I could see doing this with my firsties counting by 10’s but starting with random numbers (29, 32, etc.) so that they could get more practice with 10+/10-

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, that’s a perfect variation! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Daniele Ickes

    This is a great activity, Donna! I teach high school math, but I still try to use visual aids and activities similar to these to help make learning more enjoyable. Math becomes an easier subject to tackle this way rather than reading straight off a textbook that, as my students say, contains Hieroglyphs. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      My pleasure, Daniele! I agree that it’s a game kids of all ages will love. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Shelby Haskett

    Fabulous idea! My kiddos will love this.

    Reply
  11. Mama Cooper

    I’m going to try this. I remember the BUZZ version as well. Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    We call it Magic Number. For example….today’s magic number is 36, counting by 3’s.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    We play this and call it the “multiples game”. We have found that it helps cement the vocabulary and helps with confusion between factors and multiples once we start working with fractions (common denominators – multiples, simplifying – factors)

    Reply
  14. larcher0411

    I love the idea!!

    Thanks!

    Lori

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      So easy and SO engaging, Lori!

      Reply
  15. Beth Korda

    Love this idea!! I use Sparkle for spelling and will now use it for math. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The kids should get a kick out of that…”What? A spelling game for MATH?!” Ha ha.

      Reply
  16. Sara Kovach

    Awesome. My kiddos love sparkle, so, yes, they will love this.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      So glad to hear it, Sara! 🙂

      Reply
  17. Fontenot's Firebreathers

    We are doing this Thursday after testing again. We have done it multiple times this year! They do love it!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      And if they love it, they’ll learn it! 🙂

      Reply
  18. Lori

    I play a variation of Sparkle when I have a couple of kids who can’t get 11, 12 and 13. We play with different numbers and I make sure the target number is past where the ones who need practice are sitting. While I feel quite shameful manipulating the game, after a couple of days they all have their numbers learned and then we go back to other forms of the game.

    Reply
  19. Karen

    I can’t wait to give this a try! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It’s a blast, Karen, and the kiddos love it! So many different versions you can do. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Phyllis

    Love this idea! I was trying to find something to spice up counting!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      This will definitely do it, Phyllis!

      Reply
  21. Angela

    An amazing math teacher shared this version with me for fraction practice: use a deck of playing cards, with aces and face cards removed (or any deck of numbered cards) to generate unit fractions. Students stand and count by that unit fraction until someone “builds the whole”. (So for example, if you flip over a 3, students would take turns counting, “one third, two thirds, three thirds”.) Whoever “builds the whole” sits. Flip the next card for another denominator and continue the in the same manner. The last man standing wins 🙂

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Love that variation, Angela!

      Reply
  22. RosaLee Vance

    Wow, this is great! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  23. Sherry

    I use a variation of this game while waiting in line to change classes. The students count off but if a student says the wrong number, we start over again and the students try harder to get farther.

    Reply
  24. Penny

    I have been pushing my teachers to do more and more activities like this to build number fluency! As I get into 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade classes (I’m an Instructional Specialist / Coach) I explain how they’ve really been multiplying since kindergarten when they’ve been skip counting and they just didn’t know it! Their faces light up as they’re reassured they can do it! Thanks for all your wonderful ideas!

    Reply
  25. Kim

    So simple, but I can see it being super effective and engaging! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  26. Dell

    We play math sparkle too! A little different .. I’ll say the answer is ‘odd’ or even or a number. Then the students go around each person says part of an equation .. They. Love . It. (Ie: answer is 11.. One person says 12 next says minus next 1 next = next 11) and so it goes!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Ooh! I really like that. Does anybody sit down, or do you just keep going around?

      Reply
  27. Subhalakshmi

    Wonderful idea ma’am. And this is my first yr of classroom teacher.. your ideas are fabulous.

    Reply
  28. Taylor G.

    I loved this game! We only ever used it for spelling but as a math education major I love your idea of using multiples. Thanks for sharing, this is a great idea and I’m sure the students loved playing it!

    Reply
  29. Vibha

    Donna it’s a wonderful idea. I too practice with my students and it’s pretty effective in learning the tables.

    Reply
  30. Carmel

    Love that all of you are so passionate and sounds like the students are enjoying games to become fluent with their counting and number facts .
    Working in schools/ cohorts who have a lot of diversity we try to work in a trauma informed way by reducing the number of games where students may not succeed . Rather than the whole class counting by 5’s or 2’s we differentiate and pair up or play in small groups so the game is pitched exactly at each students point of need for practising and developing fluency.The games are fun often using dice or cards but never as one large group where those who are not confident or have a different learning goal are in the spotlight expected to answer in sequence and in front of all their peers.
    Making tasks invitational reduces anxiety and builds confidence at the exact point if learning .

    Reply

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