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Gator Games

 The purpose of this game is to encourage students to learn basic math facts. The game boosts the use of mental math in all four operations and the use of strategies and gamesmanship. Gator is perfect for those last few minutes in the class or for a group of students who finish work early. The numbers are displayed so each player has a fair advantage to read both numbers.

How to use

1. Prepare

Select the math operations you want to focus on practicing with your students.  Decide which numbers you want to include in your practice game.  This may depend on the age of your students and the level of their math skill. 

2. Create Number Cards

Print the number cards for the numbers you want to include in the game.  Remember that the numbers that you choose may depend on the age of your students and the level of their math skill.  Each card will contain 2 numbers.  See templates for examples.

3. Divide Students Into Groups

To play the game, students should be divided into groups of 3-6 students for each group with individual abilities and math skill levels in mind.  The game works best when students of similar ability are grouped together.

4. Play Round 1 Using the Following Procedure

Shuffle the cards and place the draw pile in the center of the group. Players each take 1 card from the top of the pile and display it face up in front of them.  As the game continues, cards drawn will form the Player’s stack. 

When each player has a card visible in front of him (or her) play begins. Players think about the result of adding, subtracting, multiplying and, dividing the two numbers on their card. When the players have several possible solutions in their head, they begin to look around at other players’ cards and calculate the solutions on other cards to find a match to the solution on their card. The solution must match but the operation to determine the solution does not have to match.

  Example #1-  Scoring a Gator:
If Player A finds a match to a solution on their card with another player, then Player A calls “Gator” and states both equations to prove the capture. Remember, the operations do not have to be the same for both cards, just the solution.
    If correct, Player A captures Player B’s stack of cards.
    If incorrect, Player A has to give up his (or her) stack to Player B.

All captured cards go on the bottom of that player’s stack. Then, all players draw a new card from the draw pile.  Once all cards are visible, play resumes.

See Diagram attached.  

Example #2-  Scoring a Double Gator
In the above diagram, if Player A spots 2 opponents (B & C) with a match on his or her cards that Players B & C aren’t capturing from each other, Player A may call “Double Gator” and state both equations to capture both stacks.
If correct, Player B and C have to give their stacks to Player A
If incorrect, Player A must divide his/her stack evenly between Players B and C. When there is an odd number of cards being divided, the odd card can be buried back into the draw pile.

Example #3- Stalls and Ties

If the game stalls and no one has a match on any cards, each player draws a new top card from the draw pile and play resumes.

If there is a tie and 2 players call “Gator” at the same time, use Rock-Paper-Scissors to break the tie.

5. Ending the Game

The game concludes when the teacher calls time or when the draw pile is empty.  Once time is called or all draw pile cards are used, each player counts his or her cards.  The player with the most cards in their pile wins the game.

When to use

Gator is a small group activity, great to use during math centers, for early finishers, as a warm-up for fact fluency building, or when there are a few minutes left in the class period. Once students understand the game, groups can quickly be formed and the game is off and running on its own in no time. Before students know it they will have worked hundreds of math problems in their heads, while having fun at the same. 


For Younger Students

For younger students, operations may need to be limited to addition and subtraction. Teachers may also want to start with a double set of lower cards, from 6-6, 6-5, on down to 1-0 and introduce new levels of cards with higher numbers as needed. 

For Older Students

For older students extend the numbers to include 12-12, 12-11, 12-10, etc.

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