At the beginning of the year, I find myself searching for simple games to get choice math centers started in my classroom. Incoming third graders are great young mathematicians and I want them to get excited about math centers so we can set the tone for math for the remainder of the year.
One of the simple math centers I implement at the beginning of the school year is an array dot card center. These dot cards help students begin recognizing patterns and using them to skip count, which is a foundational skill of multiplication. Shortly after I introduce these cards, students begin using them at a math center!
Here are a few I model for students:
- Flashcards: Students get a partner. Each student holds half the deck of cards and faces his or her partner. Taking turns, students show their partners a card from their deck and the partner counts the number of dots (and later strategizes using dot patterns to skip count and finally uses knowledge of arrays to multiply). The student counting states the number of dots on the card and the partner confirms by checking his or her partner’s work. Then, it’s the other partner’s turn to view a card and count. Play continues like this for about 7-10 minutes when first using these cards.
- Flashcard Showdown: After these cards have been introduced and students begin finding strategies to help them quickly count the number of dots on the card, students enjoy playing this game in groups of three. One student holds the cards and two other students sit beside each other, facing the student holding the cards. The student holding the cards shows one card to the two students facing her or him and the viewing students race to state the number of dots on the card. The student holding the card checks the other students’ answers and determines the winner between the two students having the showdown. The student who answered correctly first wins the card. I encourage students playing this version of the game to switch roles every 10 cards or so to ensure all students are getting a chance to strategize and count dots. Play continues this way until the entire deck has been used.
- Array Dot Card War: Students play a game of War using these flashcards. Partners or groups of three split a deck of dot cards evenly among themselves and keep their cards facedown in a pile. On the count of three, partners turn over one card and compare their cards. The student with the greatest dot card keeps the cards that were flipped and play continues this way. If students flip cards that have equal numbers of dots on them, then those students face off. Students then each lay two additional cards facedown and flip a third card to compare. The student with the greatest array dot card keeps all the cards that were involved in the face off. Play continues this way until time is up or one student wins all the cards in the deck.
- Two-digit Addition or Multiplication Flip: Partners or groups of three students playing this game evenly split the deck of cards between them. Then, each student flips two cards. Depending on the skill you are currently studying or reviewing in your classroom (addition or multiplication), students add or multiply their two dot card numbers using a small whiteboard or a piece of scrap paper. Students with the greatest sum or product keep all the cards played that round. Play continues this way. If students get the same product or sum after multiplying or adding their dot cards, and this product or sum is greater than their third group members if playing as a group of three, the two students that had equal sums or products keep their original cards down and flip two more cards. The students find their new sums or products and the student with the greater sum or product this time keeps all the cards from the two rounds. Play continues this way until time is up or one student wins all the cards in the deck.
In this array dot card deck, there are 102 array cards that display arrays of all the basic multiplication facts that correspond with numbers 1-10.
I print several decks of these cards on different colored card stock and store them in a Sterilite container. This allows students to quickly grab this bin when it is a choice for math centers and get started right away!
Click the image below to get these array dot cards in my TpT store!