Math Mights Showdown! Addition Edition

Feb 13, 2020

This week, we can’t wait to share our newest product with you – Math Mights pencil toppers and dice!

Separately, these are amazing tools, but together, they create Math Mights Showdown – a fun way for students to show off their problem solving skills

As I work with students at our M³ Project Schools, I’m constantly amazed by how many strategies these kids know! And I’m not the only one noticing – principals and administrators, visitors to the schools literally just walking down the hallway – everyone is impressed that students are learning to solve problems in so many different ways!

As we implemented our mini binders this year, we have designated portions of instruction for 2nd-5th grade to really focus on the three ways plus the traditional strategies with the Math Mights. We have found that classrooms that have number talks typically have students that can not only explain the different strategies, but they can identify the Math Mights character and the name of the strategy that goes with it as well.

Kids have done so many fun things with the Math Mights, and many have a favorite Mathville citizen they like to talk about. I have a vivid memory of modeling with the Math Mights in a 5th grade classroom one day, and a student, who was having a bit of a tougher day in the classroom, was sitting on the couch in the cool down area, seemingly not paying attention. However, he was the first to yell out the name of the character I was using! This same student had also developed a great connection with the Math Mights, so much so that he asked his teacher if he could borrow chart paper to take home over the holiday break so he could draw the Math Mights. 

The Math Might characters have really helped our students related to the strategies that, without the character and the visual of that character living in Mathville, might just be another boring strategy. Being able to watch students actually understand compensation or why you might shift a number on a number line has really been profound for me too. The more we’re bringing the characters into the classroom, the more we’re building number sense.

Students aren’t the only ones getting creative with Math Mights! Last year, Barb Clem, one of my favorite teachers we work with in Lincoln Park, used old juice cartons made little boxes for students to solve different problems using the characters. Each juice carton had a chute at the top that went into the mouth of the character where students would insert their problem. What amazed me was the kids were able to look at a problem, tell a partner how they would solve it, and then check their answer when it spits out their solution. 

Our reusable stickers have also taken off! Teachers put them on all kinds of things! White boards, desks, popsicle sticks – they’re a great way to remind students of their strategies and get kids to fall in love with math again, which was the whole purpose behind developing Math Mights in the first place! Having finished a pilot year of having Math Mights Addition Poster in the classroom, and now adding the Math Mights Subtraction Poster, this truly has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me.

Just a few weeks ago, I walked into a classroom and kids started to buzz. Eventually one student got bold enough to ask – “Are you the author of the Math Mights?? You’re famous!.”

While I certainly don’t think I’m famous, I love hearing students tell me how much they understand about the problem solving strategies and just how excited they are to show off their strategies to their teachers, friends, or even parents. In an age where students, both high level and at-risk, are coming to us a little more aloof and unwilling to put extra effort into anything, watching students be able to communicate their reasoning in a way that mathematically makes sense is really a milestone.

Another Math Mights story that makes my heart happy is from a 2nd grade teacher in one of our M³ schools who told the story of two girls in her class that had really struggled to understand the decompose/compose strategy of addition. The teacher had taught and taught this strategy, but they just didn’t get it. However, the teacher had a “mom” moment (where your mom tells you something over and over and you don’t listen, but if someone else tells you, it’s a great idea) when the D.C. video came out. As soon as her class watched that video, it clicked for those girls! And the class was even solving the harder decimal problems in the video before D.C. did! 

It’s amazing how the Math Mights made so much of a difference for that classroom and for so many other classrooms that I get to work with, but also with parents! Some of our parents have been skeptical of the different strategies for solving problems, but these same parents come to a parent night, watch the D.C. video and it begins to make more sense to them! We even have parents who are able to solve fraction problems using D.C.! 

New Math Mights Gear!

Our two newest products were designed to help you continue to reinforce the Math Mights and their strategies in the classroom while making it fun and exciting to solve problems. There are so many possibilities for combining the Math Mights pencil toppers and dice (we’ve already seen teachers be so creative!). Today, we wanted to share with you one way you can use the pencil toppers and dice to help your students practice and show off their problem solving skills – either in a number talk, in a Math with Someone station, or in groups. 

Today’s videos are not really tutorials for students, though you certainly could play it for a class. Instead, they are intended more for you as a teacher. In them, I walk through the game, not with a partner, but just as a teacher to really help you be able to understand the strategies so you can help your students with it later on. For students who need help with understanding the strategies, we have the Math Mights in Action animated videos they can watch (Abracus is coming soon!) and, as an additional resource, we have blog posts on each of the characters that go into more depth on each of their strategies.

Math Might Showdown – Addition

Players: 2-4


  • Math Mights Addition dice. (2nd grade and up) The dice features our Math Might friends that star on the addition poster – D.C., Abracus, Value Pak, and T-Pops (Value Pak. and Abracus are represented twice).
  • Math Might Pencil Toppers:
    • 1st grade: D.C., Abracus, 
    • 2nd and up: D.C., Abracus Value Pak, and T-Pops
  • Pencil cup
  • Blank paper for each player
  • Clear counters – 10 of one color per player.
  • One game board. Choose one based on what you’re working on in your classroom with your students:
    • Single Digit Problems
    • Double Digit Problems
    • Triple Digit problems 
    • Decimals
    • Create Your Own

Download the Math Mights Showdown PDF

    Place the game board in a clear plastic sleeve in the middle of the players, along with the pencil cup containing sharpened pencils topped with the Math Might Pencil Toppers.

    Level 1: First Grade

    This game is played a little differently in 1st grade because our 1st grade students will only be practicing with D.C. and Abracus, so they won’t use the dice (since it represents all four strategies) and they’ll only have D.C. and Abracus pencils to use. Since they’re usually just learning how to do the strategies, this game will provide extra practice at communicating their thinking, but I would leave it at that – just fun extra practice with problem solving. For 1st graders, this would be great as a station with a partner!


    DC Square

    When it’s their turn, the student will pick a problem on the game board, claim it with their color counter, and choose which strategy they will use to solve it: D.C. or Abracus. Let’s say the student chose 9+5 and chose to use D.C. The student will grab the D.C. pencil and, using the blank paper, write out the problem and solve it using the decompose/compose strategy. As they do, they’ll explain to their partner what they’re doing. “I’m going to decompose the 5 into 1 and 4. Then I’ll compose the 1 with my 9 to get 10, and add the 4 back to get 14.”

    The other players must agree that this is the correct answer. If they do, the player keeps his or her counter on the board and the next student takes a turn. If the answer is incorrect, the next students can solve it correctly and claim that space on the board with his or her own counter.

    abracus squareThe next student will go by rolling the dice. They might roll Abracus. So they choose a problem (6+5), put their counter on it, pick up the Abracus pencil and solve the problem. “I’m going to zap the number 6 to make it 5 becuase I know that 5+5 is 10. But since we took away 1 from the 6, I’m going to add that back in to the 10 and the total is 11.”

    Students would continue until all the problems are claimed! Accountability sheets are built into this game – students would just turn in their scratch paper where they’ve worked all their problems.

    You can certainly use CPA along with the Math Mights and their strategies during this game! A double 10-frame would work really well for problems like the Abracus example earlier. The student could build 6+5 with 6 red counters on the top 10-frame and 5 red counters on the bottom. They could easily see how taking off the one counter makes it 5+5, and then adding it back makes the total 11.

    The Counting Buddy Sr. is also a great option, especially for the 9+5 problem from earlier. They could pull over 9 beads of one color, and then pull over 5 more to see how that 5 decomposes into 1 and 4 and how decomposing the number lets them make a 10.

    Level 2: 2nd Grade and Up – Non Competitive

    For 2nd grade and up, students use the Math Mights Dice and all four pencil toppers. They have learned to add larger numbers and can now use all four strategies, including Value Pak and T-Pops. You can choose which game board to use depending on where your students are with quantities they are adding, or you can create your own based on the unique needs of your students.


    You want students to roll the dice before they pick a problem because it helps them think more critically about how that strategy can be applied to the problems. As they get older, the question really becomes which strategy is most efficient, and as they develop a repertoire of strategies, you want them to be able to choose when to use one over another, which is a great 21st century skill!

    When it’s their turn, a student will roll the dice to see what strategy they will use to solve their problem. Let’s say they rolled Value Pak. Then, the student will choose a problem from the game board. The student chooses 21+25 and claims it with their color counter. They grab the Value Pak pencil, write out the problem and solve it using the strategy. “I’m going to decompose the 21 into 20 and 1, and the 25 into 20 and 5. Then I’m going to add the 20 and 20 to get 40 and the 1 and 5 to get 6. 40+6 is 46.”


    If the student is correct, they can keep their counter on that problem, however, if the other players feel the student is incorrect, they can challenge the answer. In a challenge, the problem goes to the next student, who has a chance to solve it correctly using the same strategy. If they can, they claim the problem with their counter. If they can’t, it goes to the next player and so on until it is solved. Once the problem is solved correctly, play resumes as usual, going back to the player who comes after the player who originally started the challenge problem.

    Continue until all the problems are claimed!

    Level 3: 2nd Grade and Up – Competitive

    This level is played just like level 2 – students roll the die, pick a problem, solve the problem using that strategy’s pencil. The added challenge in this level is that students are trying to be the first to get 4 counters in a row. Players can get 4 in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally. This forces them to really think about how to apply their strategies to any type of problem as they try to figure out how to block their partners! 

    Options for Levels 2 and 3:

    Car or Jet?

    The Math Might car and Math Might jet (both of which are free downloads in our store!) represent the slowest and most efficient ways to solve a problem. As students get more proficient at applying the strategies, they’ll see that there are often multiple strategies that would work for a single problem. However, there is usually one strategy that is faster, or more efficient, than the rest – the jet strategy. Other strategies might be more like the car, which kind of putzes around on the winding Mathville roads. It gets where it wants to go, but much more slowly!

    As students are playing the Math Mights Showdown, they might pick a problem to use with the strategy they rolled and realize that another strategy might have worked better. For example, if a student rolls T-Pops and the problem they picked was 29965. They’ll have to regroup and regroup and then go back and solve. So, while T-Pops works for that problem, that’s definitely the car method. Another student might point out that Abracus would be the jet method because they can change 300 – 65 to be 300+65 = 365 then they can -1 to get the answer 366 and solve it much faster.

    Download the Math Mights Showdown PDF

    Construct Viable Arguments & Critique the Reasoning of Others (Math Practice 3)

    As students get better at this game, they can also add a layer of conversation in which they work on critiquing each other’s reasoning. Throughout the game, they are working on constructing their arguments, but the second part of that helps them look at that argument and see if it makes sense. Is the answer incorrect? Is another strategy more efficient?

    Students could use one of the following sentence stems to begin this conversation after a player’s turn:

    • I agree with your answer. Another way to solve it is…
    • I disagree with your answer because…

    If they want to show off another way to solve the problem, they could grab the character’s pencil and go! 

    Download the Math Mights Showdown PDF

    Math Mights Showdown would be a great tool to use in partner number talks to get the conversation flowing using these stems, and allowing students to continue to apply different strategies! We’ve blogged about this before in Partner Number Talks, so check out that post for more on this topic!


    Let us know how you use the Math Mights Showdown in your classroom! We can’t wait to see pictures! Tag us on FB @strategicinterventionsolutions or Instagram @strategicinterventionsolutions.

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