I am about to share 10 task card games that I have used to engage students successfully – who doesn’t love FREE classroom activities explained in detail?!!! But first, let’s answer the obvious in case you aren’t familiar: just what are task cards exactly?
Task cards are just what they sound like they are – cards with math problems on them! Task cards are all over the internet – free, available for purchase, and even templates to create your own. They also vary in complexity: they can be simple and straightforward or stimulating word problems.
Task cards are a versatile tool because they can be used in NUMEROUS ways: bellwork, exit tickets, partner activities, independent practice for early finishers, center work, review, and much more. If you want to learn more ways to use task cards, check out Task Cards: 8 Ways to Use Them in Your Classroom.
But if you already know all that and just want to get to the task card games – here they are, in no particular order:
Whiteboards aren’t really a ‘game’, but I feel it necessary to include them. Students love whiteboards – there is just something about not committing work to paper and the ability to erase with a swipe that empowers them!
Newer teachers: you don’t always have to make activities ‘tons of fun’ for it to be engaging. Sometimes you don’t have time to prep a game – whiteboards and task cards can go a long way at these times!
Don’t have whiteboards? Ask your district about purchasing these for you – I love them because of the reversible XY coordinate grid on the back! (Not an affiliate link!)
Individual Competition Task Card Games
#2: “Around the World”
This is a simple game where students are competing to find and answer all the task cards you’ve hidden “around the world” – actually just your room!
Be sure to hide your task cards in various places BEFORE the students arrive. Then just have your students search out the hidden task cards and work them out in a given amount of time. (Don’t underestimate how easily students can find your hidden questions!)
Since not everyone works at the same pace, I would choose a specific minimum number of task cards that must be completed by the end of the hour, but perhaps not ALL. You may also want to provide an answer key for students to check themselves, but regardless, be sure to make yourself available for student questions as they’re working.
The object of this game is to give the best ‘clues’ for answers to the task cards.
Set up stations around the room with a task card and a blank sheet of paper. Students all begin at one task card and after they work it out, they try to leave a ‘clue’ with their initials (on the blank sheet of paper) for the next student solving it. The only catch is the clue can’t explicitly give the answer and it cannot be the same as a previous clue-giver’s clue.
Students will work through as many problems as possible leaving clues in the time allowed. During this time, you will be crossing off any clues given that do not meet the criteria and answering student questions. The student that gives the most good clues across all the clue sheets wins!
#4: “Knock Out”
Knock out is all about being the last man standing. Students will get in a circle with their own individual answer sheets. Project a task card for all to see and everyone works it out, and then randomly select a student to share their answer. If they are correct, they get to ‘knock out’ a student on their left or right; if they are incorrect, they are out!
Students are still expected to participate in answering the questions if they are ‘out’. (A fun spin on this is if you draw the name of someone already ‘out’, they still have a chance to ‘knock out’ someone who is still in the game.) Play continues until only one student remains.
#5: Musical Math
This game is loosely tied to the game of musical chairs.
Set up task card stations around the room and have students select their starting station. When you begin the music, they will begin answering their problem; when the music stops, they must stop and find another station to work at. (Set the amount of time based on the difficulty of the problems and the level of your students.)
The winner of the game is the student that has the most complete, correct answers at the end of the game. (However – know your students! If it will frustrate them to not be able to finish a problem before moving on, prepare them for this aspect of the game. You could even make their remaining problems take-home work.)
The goal of “Kaboom” is to end the game with the most task cards, but there is one catch – watch out for the ‘kaboom’ cards!
For this game you will need to create some extra cards that say ‘kaboom’ on them that are the same size and shape as your task cards. Mix them all together in a stack.
Group students together (no more than 5). One student begins by drawing a task card (all students work it out on their answer sheet). Once everyone has an answer, they will check the answer sheet. If the student who drew the card is correct, he keeps it; if incorrect, he sets the card aside.
When any student draws the dreaded ‘kaboom’ card, he/she must remove a task card from his/her winnings pile and set it aside. The student with the most cards at the end wins!
Group Competition Task Card Games
#7: “Connect 4”
This is a simple task card game version of the classic Connect 4.
Draw a large 7×6 grid on your whiteboard (with boxes large enough for post-its). Then group students together (no more than 4) to work as a team, naming each team by a different color of post-it note. Set up an accessible station with the task cards printed.
One student will run up to get a task card and bring it back to their group to work out together. (Everyone must record their work on their own sheet.) Once finished, another student will run up with the task card and answer. If they are correct, they receive will receive a post-it of their color to put on the grid, as well as a new task card.
Play will continue this way until one of the teams connects four!
#8: Math Basketball
This game is a little bit more ‘athletic’ than the other task card games I’ve shared with you! You will need something that serves as a basketball and hoop. (I suggest a crumpled paper and trash can if nothing else!) Also, put a piece of tape on the floor to serve as the ‘free throw’ line. (Feel free to get creative and have alternative places to shoot from for varying points.)
Group students together (no more than 4) to work as a team. Project a task card for all students to work out, helping each other in their own team. You may or may not decide to give a time limit, depending on the task cards’ content.
Then select one team to go first: if their answer is correct, they get to shoot; an incorrect answer allows the next team to attempt a ‘rebound’. If the rebounding team is correct, they get to make a shot; again, an incorrect answer and the rebound goes to the next team – and so on and so forth. The game can usually can take up an entire class period, so no need for time limits.
The team with the most shot points at the end, wins!
Trashketball is different from Math Basketball in that it is a lot more chaotic, but the biggest pro is students get the opportunity to complete RIDICULOUS amounts of task cards! You will need a set up similar to “#8 Math Basketball”: some form of hoop, ball, and shooting line.
Group students together (no more than 4) to work as a team. Provide the students with a set of task cards (anywhere from 5-10) to complete together on their individual answer sheets. Once they have completed all the task cards in the set, one student shows you their answers. If any are incorrect, they must go back and rework that problem with their team. If ALL are correct, they receive the next set of task cards, as well as get to form their own ‘trashketball’ from the previously completed task cards! (Or just a a random sheet of paper if you keep your task cards from group to group!)
Each time the team makes a ‘trashketball’, they get to make 3 shots. This is a work at your own pace game, so multiple teams may be lined up to have answers checked and make shots at a time (hence the chaos) – but they love it! I suggest having enough task cards for at least four sets of problems for students to answer. (You’d be surprised how many questions they are willing to work out in one class period during this fun game.)
The team with the most shot points at the end, wins!
#10: Relay Races
This is not the ONLY way to do relay races with task cards! Feel free to change up the way I describe and make it your own!
First, divide your class into 2-5 lines of students and give each student an index card. Project a task card for all the students to see. Then let each line work together to answer it on the first students’ index card. Immediately once they’ve answered the question, the first student will run up and stick it on your whiteboard. The first team with a correct answer gets a checkmark by their index card.
The lines reset, and you project the second task card. Play continues like this until you are out of task cards. The team with the most checks at the end of the game, wins!
I hope you can get at least one or two great go-to task card games from this post. I intend to come back and add ‘bonus’ games as time passes, so if you have a game you’d like to share, please do in the comments below!