Monday, October 17, 2011

DIY Checkers (with Addition and Subtraction)

When my son’s math summer camp ended, the teacher told me about the games they had played in class. Games? Really? He showed me the games and explained how each of them taught math skills – even strategy. I had no idea that chess was a math game, but apparently it is.

Since neither my husband nor I know how to play chess or, truthfully, really want to learn, I thought checkers might be a more agreeable game for our family. To prove that playing checkers truly was educational, I did what every person does when they have an unanswered question – I Googled it.

According to Misty Karam on, checkers can teach important pre-math skills like sorting by color, directions (e.g. forward, backward, and diagonal), cause/effect, logical thinking, and reasoning. Cool, huh?

What you need:
  1. 24 plastic bottle caps (or 12 of one kind, and 12 of another; it helps if the lids will nest inside one another when stacked)
  2. Plain colored cardstock in two colors (if you plan to add math problems to your checkers board, make sure one of the papers is a light enough color that dry-erase ink will be legible)
  3. 1 sheet of posterboard measuring 14-inches square (or larger)
  4. 1 sheet of sticker paper (optional) or stickers
  5. Dry-Erase markers (optional, if you laminate your board)
To make our checkers board, I used my Fiskars paper cutter and cut out 32 squares (measuring 1 ¾-inches) in one color paper and 32 squares of the same size from another color of paper. Then one by one my son and I glued these down, alternating the colors, onto a 14-inch square piece of posterboard. (You’ll end up with an 8 by 8 grid of squares.) Then I took the “board” to a local office paper/copy shop to be laminated.

Since I had plans to work some addition and subtraction practice into our checkers game, I designed circular plus and minus stickers to print on sticker paper and cut them out with my Martha Stewart Punch All Over the Page™ 1 ½-inch circle punch. These fit perfectly on the 24 plastic Gatorade bottle lids I’d saved during the summer. (You can download my lid stickers here. Truthfully, though, you don’t need these stickers or a fancy punch. Simply add 12 of the same stickers to the tops of half the lids so that you can distinguish between the two opponents’ checkers.)

Before we started to play, I added some subtraction and addition problems with a dry-erase marker to the game board on colored squares we’d be playing on (on our board, we play on the gray squares). Every time that my son jumped one of my checkers, he had to answer the math problem underneath. (Need a refresher on how to play checkers? I did. Go here.)

My son has played this game every day since we made it. He even wrote and illustrated his own checkers rule book (his own idea!). The kid is going crazy for this game, which makes saving the lids and gluing all those squares totally worth it in my book!


  1. That's wonderful! Love the idea. I've pinned it too! Visiting from Linky Party

  2. great idea! but i think i'm just going to make over an old board to make it easier on me! LOL!

  3. How cool! I keep thinking that it's time to teach daughter to play checkers - your post has completely convinced me :)

  4. As you saw I featured this wonderfully creative Math idea at Living Life Intentionally Linky Party! Thanks so much for sharing & I can't wait to see what else you link up! I have created a featured button that you are more than welcome to grab at this Saturdays Linky Party =-)

  5. I love this - I'm going to link this on our blog. Please come and visit our post today on games:

  6. This is brilliant! Thanks for the great idea :D I'm making things for my Games Cupboard in school at the moment and this one is definitely being added :)

  7. What a great game! I really like the idea of laminating the board. That way I can customize the the problems to challenge all of my students. Thanks for the great idea.