Making Math with Someone Easy with Math Game Tutorials: Bump!

Jan 17, 2020

Math games sound like a GREAT idea, don’t they! They can take math workshop to a whole new level and provide a second or third layer of reinforcement for students – no more busy work!

In a perfect math workshop world, it looks something like this: Students go to Math by Myself to practice what they’ve just learned in the Math with a Teacher station, then they proceed to the Math with Someone station where they’ll enjoy playing games that are aligned to the standards within our current unit of study that will also help solidify the math concepts the students are learning. Students will be working quietly, getting the tools in and out of the Math Salad Bar and extending their learning with accountability sheets. **cue angelic choir**

However, once the choir stops singing, you realize that you already don’t have time for everything in your classroom. How are you going to teach the kids how to play all these great games? You mentally run through your schedule – maybe there’s some time on Friday after specials to teach the rules? But the games are all differentiated, so how do you teach all the levels and how will students know what level the use? 

When you’re considering how to fit in all the perfect elements of a math block, teaching students how to play the math games is definitely a challenge.

But, what would happen if we allowed students to take responsibility for their learning? What if we let them learn how to play a game on their own? After reviewing the rules, what if we encouraged student-to-student conversations where they apply the rules to certain scenarios that might happen in the game – like someone rolls a double or someone answers in correctly?

In math workshop, we are always trying to buy back time. In our M³ schools, we’ve made great strides in this area with our math games binders that are a part of our larger curriculum mapping project. In the binder, we have three copies of every game, so kids can grab the game board, grab the materials from the Math Salad Bar, and theoretically begin to play. But that assumes they already know how. We find that teaching kids how to play math games consumes an incredible amount of time.

The Solution

This month, we want to help you buy back time by equipping you with resources, namely video tutorials, that will help you put the responsibility back on students to learn how to play math games. Cue the angelic choirs again as you think about this scenario: At the beginning of the week, during Math with Someone, students watch the video about how to play their game on a computer or tablet. Then, they get all the materials required for the game and begin to interact with the game, talking collaboratively about different scenarios and engaging in conversation about the rules. Finally, they play the game, having ownership and pride in having figured it out on their own.

Most of our 21st century kids are not coming to us with game-playing skills. They don’t know how to handle a situation where someone cheats or someone isn’t following the rules. They live in an instant gratification world with things at their fingertips, so they don’t have to process through scenarios like that very often. The games they play at home are usually electronic, not games like Monopoly or Trouble! which involve deeper thinking. Learning how, as a math community, to talk about a game, process the rules and have a discussion about how the game should be played, and ultimately play the game is a really complex thought process that that our kids need to practice. 

This process would obviously be much smoother in upper grades (3-6). They might watch the video, talk about the game play, play it through, and then make notes, maybe on a dry erase board or in a journal. The next day, they can refer to the video or their notes as they begin to play the game in earnest.

In lower elementary classrooms, we have so many different games! First graders might not be able to go through the process as independently, but if we can play a video instead of having to teach the games over and over, it will definitely help!

The video tutorials we’re going to release this month could certainly be used with a whole class as they learn the game, depending on the grade level you teach, or they could be used to move students a little more towards taking responsibility for their learning and seeking out the knowledge before they come to you in more of a flipped classroom style.

See the whole collection of Math Games here!

Many teachers tell me that this is how they use our Deck o’ Dots videos. They are available online and are great for parents, but they’re also helpful for teachers! The videos can help the students learn to play the game, but also help teachers remember, oh yeah, that’s how you play this one, or oh yeah, this one has that accountability sheet


In the video this week, we’re featuring Bump games, which are really popular with kids! Bump is a game with great longevity because, once kids learn the rules (maybe in 1st grade), they can play the same game with different operations and the possibilities become endless.


Bump is part of our 8 SMPs Math Strategy Games download, or you can make your own with a piece of paper or a dry erase board. All you need is 12 circles on the page and the numbers 1-12 randomly placed within the circles.

The game of Bump has three different levels, or differentiation options, making it an incredibly versatile game!

Level 1 – Basic Bump

Objective: To be the first to get rid of 10 counters by covering the numbers on the board.

To begin play, one player rolls the pair of dice, and then places a counter on the sum of the two addends on the dice. For example: Henry rolls a 5 and a 3, so he puts his red counter on the 8. Jane rolls a 4 and a 2, so she puts her blue counter on the 6. 

If a player rolls and gets a sum that is already covered, the player can “bump” the other color counter and claim it with their counter. For example: Henry rolls a 3 and a 3, so he can “bump” Jane’s blue counter and replace it with his red one.

If a player rolls a double, they can roll again and get an extra turn. 

Ownership: If a player already has a counter on a number, but rolls that number again, they can take ownership of that number. For example: Henry already has a red counter on 8, but if he rolls a 4 and a 4, he can “crown” the number with a second counter and he would then own that number making it “unbumpable.” If Jane rolls an 8 throughout the rest of the game, she would lose a turn.

In a nutshell, this is a really versatile game that doesn’t require a whole lot of strategy. You roll the dice and put your counter on the sum if it is uncovered. If there is already a counter there, you bump it. If there are two counters (even if they are yours!) on the sum, you lose a turn.

Level 2

The same basic game with the same objective and materials, but with two options for play. 

  • Option 1: Put your counter on the sum of the two dice. 
  • Option 2: Put your counter on the two addends displayed on the dice.

Adding the option to cover the two addends requires students to use more of the 8 Mathematical Practices because it adds more strategy. Do they want to bump their partner because their chips are dwindling? Or are they on the race to get rid of their counters?

For example, if I rolled an 8 with a 5 and a 3, I could choose to put my counter on the 8, or I could put my counter on the 5 and the 3. If my partner’s counter was on 5, I might choose to bump them, and put my counters on 5 and 3. If I already had a counter on the 8, I might choose to put a second counter on the 8 so I could crown it and claim it. There’s not a right or wrong way to do it, but it gets the students engaged with more strategy, which kids don’t always have since they don’t usually play games at home.

Level 3 – Bump Unlimited

After students master the first two levels, they love moving on to Level 3! This is my favorite version of Bump – Bump Unlimited!

In this level, you want to get rid of your counters as quickly as possible, as with the other levels, but you have almost unlimited options for doing so.

  • Option 1: Put your counter on the sum of the two dice.
  • Option 2: Put your counter on the two addends displayed on the dice.
  • Option 3: Put your counters on any amount of numbers that adds up to the sum.

For example, let’s say you roll a 4 and a 4. You could 1) put your counter on the 8, 2) put two counters on 4 to crown it and own it, or 3) put two counters on the 2 to crown it and own it and then one on 4. The options are unlimited and it’s helpful for kids to be able to think of multiple ways to decompose a number. Let’s say the 4 was crowned, well, then you’d maybe put a counter on the 3 and one on the 1 instead.

In this game, though, you really have to watch what your partner is doing and keep an eye on their counters! Since a person can get rid of 4 counters in one turn, your partner could win before you realize it! 

See all three levels on one page here: Bump Game Tutorials


It is very important to have an accountability sheet available for students while they play the Bump on any level. For level 1 and 2, it might just be a sheet of traditional number bonds that students can fill in. Level 3 might require an open-ended number bond sheet where students draw spokes off the sum as they place their counters. However you choose to do it, make sure students are recording their moves! 

Once your kids learn Bump, it could take on a life of it’s own in your classroom – it’s certainly not a “one-and-done” game! Kids don’t get tired of it – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a kid groan and complain that they’ve already played it when they see Bump at a center. And as kids get better, the rules can and kids can always take it to the next level!

Get your free Bump board here!

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