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Balloon Math:
A Game for All Levels



  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

This game combines physical activity and math reinforcement.



  • play responsibly and fairly.
  • perform a variety of math operations accurately.


math, balloon, exercise, arithmetic

Materials Needed

  • balloons
  • index cards
  • tape (transparent or masking tape will work fine)

Lesson Plan

This game combines a little fun and exercise with real math. The game can be easily adapted to other areas of the curriculum too.

Before the Lesson
Plan this lesson for a space in which you can let students freely move and run. You can play in your classroom if you push all desks to one side of the room, but an all-purpose room is even better. Or you can play this game outdoors. An all-purpose room has built in boundaries; if you play outdoors you will want to set boundaries (such as the marked basketball court or the diamond area formed by the bases on the baseball field).

Choose the math skill (or other skill) that you wish to reinforce using this game. Create a list of "possible answers" and then create a list of math problems that, when calculated, yield each of those answers. For example, if the "possible answer" you choose is 24, then you might create problems (using math skills your students know) that result in an answer of 24. The math problems below all equal 24.

3 x 8 =
7 + 9 + 8 =
56 - 32 =
48 divided by 2 =
2 feet = ___ inches
The number of hours in a day = ___
1-1/2 pounds = ___ ounces
If 5x = 140, then x = ___
  • Develop a list of possible answers equal to the number of students in your classroom. For each possible answer, create three matching math problems.
  • Write each of those three math problems on a different index card. Randomly tape the math-problem index cards all over the walls or windows of the space where you will play the game. If you will play this game outdoors, you might tape the index cards to the outside of your classroom windows (if you are on the ground floor); students will surely wonder what those cards taped to the windows are all about.
  • Blow up balloons, one per student. On each balloon, use a thick black marker to write one of the possible answers for which you have developed math problems. Store the balloons in plastic trash bags or another kind of container. In addition, store a handful of spare, unmarked balloons in case a balloon pops during the game.
  • Ask students to join hands and form a large circle. Once in a circle, they can let go of their classmates' hands.
  • Hand each student a balloon.
  • Provide game directions: Tell students that you are going to let them hit their balloons into the air when you blow a whistle or shout "Go!" Explain that the idea behind this part of the game is to keep all the balloons in the air -- not to let any balloons hit the ground. Students can begin by hitting the balloon you handed them, but as the activity goes on and students move about another balloon might come into their path and they can hit that one too. Play will continue until you give a stop signal. At that point, each student should hold onto the balloon that is nearest to him or her. (If any balloons pop during play, replace those balloons with one of the balloons you are holding in reserve. Write the number from the popped balloon on the new balloon and put it into play.)
  • Now that you have explained the rules of the game, you are set to signal its start. Play for five minutes or until you feel students have had a good bit of exercise. At that time, signal the end of the game. Each student should end up with one balloon in his or her possession.
  • Instruct students to look at the number on the balloon they are holding. Then point out the index cards that you have taped to the walls or windows. Tell students that they need to find the three index cards that have math problems on them that, when calculated, end up with an answer that is the same as the number on their balloons.
  • As students locate their three cards, check their math. If they are correct, let them sit down to rest. If any card(s) they have selected does not match the number on their balloon, then they must return that card and find the correct one(s).
  • When all students have their cards, ask them to share the math problems that equal the numbers on their balloons.

Adapt the Game
This game can be adapted for almost any subject. Its possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

  • Choose words that have more than one meaning. Write each word on a balloon. Write two different meanings on two different cards. At the end of the playtime, students must find the two meanings that match the word on their balloon.
  • Write a different state name on each balloon. On the cards write facts about that state. At the end of play students must research the state and find the cards that tell about it.
  • Write an author's name on each balloon. At the end of play, students must find the two cards that have titles of books by that author on the balloon.


Did students get the correct response cards on the first try? If so, you might reward them by giving them a card worth a bonus 10 points on an upcoming quiz.

Lesson Plan Source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES Pre-K - 2
NM-NUM.PK-2.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

NPH.K-12.3 Physical Activity
NPH.K-12.5 Responsible Behavior
NPH.K-12.6 Respect for Others

See more Lesson Plans of the Day in our Lesson Plan of the Day Archive. (There you can search for lessons by subject too.)

For additional math lesson plans, see these Education World resources:

For additional physical education lesson plans, see these Education World resources:

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Copyright© 2009 Education World

Originally published 12/30/2005
Last updated 02/16/2009