Follow the Path

Practice the counting-on strategy in this short path board game.

2+ Players
Moderate teacher engagement

Materials


  • Counters (for example, a toy frog, a toy airplane, counting chips of different colors): These serve as game pieces, with a different type for each student who is going to play the game.
  • Die, number spinner, or number cards: These can be playing cards or dot cards; players should use numbers 1 to 6 to start.
  • Game board: Use the one provided or create your own (you can start with 12 boxes), making sure that the boxes on the board have numerals printed in a sequential order and that they are not laid out in a circle.

Setup — less than 5 minutes


Gather the materials.


Instructions

  1. Introduce the game to students and decide who is going to go first.
  2. Each student chooses a unique counter as their game piece and places it at the beginning of the path on the board. 
  3. On every student’s turn, the student rolls a die and moves forward that number of boxes while counting on, saying the numbers printed on the board. For example, a student who was on box 5 and rolled a 1 would say “6,” rather than “1.”
  4. Students can put their hand next to the board with their fingers showing the number they rolled to help them keep track of how many boxes they need to move as they count on.
  5. The game ends when all students reach the final box.

Checks for Understanding

To deepen children’s learning about early math concepts, talk and ask questions while doing this activity together. Here are some examples to get you started.

Counting One-to-One
  • “How many boxes are you supposed to move forward?”
  • “Can you count as you move to make sure you go the right number of boxes forward?”
  • “You rolled a 1 and you are on the 7 box. What is the number after 7?”
  • “What number should you say first when you start counting?”
  • “How do you know how many boxes to move forward?”
  • “How many boxes have you moved forward altogether?”
  • “What number will you be on when you move forward two boxes?”
  • “How many more do you need to get to the end? You rolled a 1. Will that be enough to get to the end? How do you know?”

Activity Modifications

Once you have tried the activity, here are some other things you can do. Try these modifications to keep the activity interesting and challenging for students all year.

Give it a Theme
  • Monarch Migration : Use this special game board to play a version in which students are monarch butterflies migrating from their summer home in the North American forests (beginning of path) to their winter home in the mountains in Michoacán, Mexico (end of path). The spaces represent the different habitats monarch butterflies pass through while migrating (forest, grassland, desert). When a student lands on a box, they act out the animal on that box, which lives in the indicated habitat.
  • Create a board with two parallel short paths, one for each student, to help prevent students from confusing their counters. 
  • Use a blank, unnumbered game board to orient children to the game before using a numbered path.
  • Add spaces on the board that direct students to take different actions (for example, a box that makes students go backward).
  • Modify the length of the path. Short path games (10 to 12 boxes in a straight line) are the best way to introduce players to the game. Longer paths allow students to practice counting larger numbers once they have mastered the concept of the game.
  • Instead of having each student use a game piece, use just one game piece and have all students play using that game piece. Everybody wins when the game piece wins.
  • Have pairs of students use a single counter. On each turn, have both students roll a die, discuss which roll will help them get to the end the quickest, and then choose one roll to use.