Maths Games for the Car

I am lucky enough to be hitting the road this holiday season and the road is long! I was wondering what I could do to keep everyone on the trip entertained and it led me to the conclusion that this is the best time to get some great maths practice in! What? Yes that’s right, I went searching on the internet to find the best maths games you can play in the car on your trip to Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg or Polokwane. My advice though would be to keep the fact that you are actually practicing maths skills a secret 🙂

So here is a list of my favorites:

  1. Before you travel:

    Make a list of things that you might see on the road as you travel, for example cows, trucks, monkeys etc. Have each person in the car guess or predict how many you will see. As you drive, have your children count each item and at the end of the journey the person with the closest guess wins a prize (e.g. an ice-cream, first holiday activity choice etc.).

    You can also guess how long exactly the trip will take and how many kilometers exactly you will travel (try not to use Google maps before you guess:))

    Another suggestion is to use Google maps and print out a map of the expected route, and then children can follow the route on their own maps and won’t have to keep asking “are we there yet?”

  2. License plates:

    Younger children can look out for number plates starting with 1 then move onto 2 once they have seen 1 and so on, until they have reached 10 or any other number you set. You can also vary the rules by asking them to only find the even or odd numbers and make it more difficult (from about grade 5) by asking them for multiples (for example, 3, 6, 9…).

    Older students from about grade 7 can practice finding prime numbers – this requires that they know their divisibility rules and can divide in their heads quite quickly (a fantastic skill to learn leading into grade 8 and 9). Alternatively, for a lead into this game ask them to find the lowest possible prime number that divides into the license plate number.

    If there are 2 or more numbers in the number plate ask your children to find the biggest number (or smallest) by re-arranging the numbers on the license plate. (This is a great concept for children anywhere from grade 2 upwards).

    Another great game is to add, subtract, multiply or divide the numbers on the number plate together. Again this can varied according to the level of your child (e.g. instead of 1 digit numbers make them 2 digit numbers for the older children).

    Use license plates to play magic 21 or 15 or any other number you choose.

  3. Guess my function or guess my number:

    As you can imagine one person in the car picks a number between for example 0 and 100 (you can change this to suit the audience). Then everybody else in the car takes turns guessing what your number is by asking you questions about the number (much like 20 questions but the maths version), for example, is your number even? Is it odd? Is it above 50? Is it a multiple of 3? And so on.

    Guess my function is a more advanced version of this game: if the other passengers give you a number, you need to do something to the number (e.g. double or triple it, divide it by 5 and so on), the passengers then need to guess what you are doing to their number (this is a great way to build on the idea of relationships and patterns).

  4. The string

    This game requires some prep before you leave. Cut a piece of string about 50cm long (if not a little bit shorter than that) and tie the ends together to make a loop. Children can then try to make shapes using their pieces of string (for example – a cup and saucer or the Eiffel tower (the only one I could do as a child) and so on. A great website to check out is www.alysion.org/figures/main.htm which shows you how to move from easy to more advanced shapes with the string. The great thing is that the instructions are step by step and lots of them have pictures. However, I would also encourage you to encourage your children to be creative – sometimes discovery can be so much more exciting than following instructions 😉

  5. On the road, whenever you have to pull into a petrol stop or Wimpy coffee break, ask your children how much change you would need if you paid with a certain value. This is great for grade 4 students and upwards.



remember to pack your SHARP EL-W535HTB scientific calculators for drill mode races in the car (and the nice thing is, mom and dad don’t have to mark the answers and it is completely fair and unbiased) You can’t argue with a calculator after all…

Remember that there are lots of games out there to be played in the car, these are just a few of the fun maths ones that I could find. Also for the maths teachers reading this, some of these can be adjusted and used in the classroom as part of mental maths part of the lesson.

Let us know which maths (or any other game) you play to keep your children occupied?


*2018 edit – You can now also pack the S25 junior drill calculator – especially designed for learners in Primary school!


the Sharp S25 junior drill calculator Or try this calculator word crossword puzzle

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