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Math Vocabulary Bingo

  • Lesson
Data Analysis and ProbabilityNumber and OperationsGeometry
Cynthia Olivas
Location: unknown

This lesson provides students an opportunity to assess their understanding of mathematical vocabulary as they relate to key concepts from the five content areas. Through the use of a familiar game format, Bingo, students will identify numbers 0‑75 that correspond to mathematical descriptions from math vocabulary clue cards.

Before using the Math Bingo game with your students, you may want to examine the Math Bingo Clue Cards for applicability to your classroom. The vocabulary emphasized on these cards is taken from a 4th‑grade textbook and based on the mathematics standards for grades 3‑5. Depending on your curriculum, you may wish to replace some of the cards with clues that are more appropriate. (You will need to create alternate clues.)

pdficon Math Vocabulary Bingo Clue Cards 

In addition, you will also need Bingo cards for the students. There are lots of free online options, or you can use the Bingo Card Spreadsheet to produce a set of your own. Hit F9 to produce a card with new numbers, and print as many cards as you need for your class. If you like, you can have the cards laminated so they can be used over and over again. Alternatively, some teachers suggest that this lesson works best if blank bingo cards are distributed to students, and students are allowed to pick their own numbers. The Blank Bingo Cards are available, if you would like to give students this option. Some teachers allow students to pick any number from 1‑75 for any of the squares, while others limit the numbers in each column as in regular bingo (1‑15 for the B column, 16‑30 for the I column, and so forth). In all cases, a number is not allowed to be used in more than one square.

spreadsheet Bingo Card Spreadsheet 

pdficon Blank Bingo Cards 

Begin this lesson by telling the students that they are going to play Bingo. Many of your students may be familiar with this game; however, you will need to be sure that all students have an understanding of the traditional format. You might wish to play a sample game using the Bingo cards, but just choose numbers at random instead of using the Math Bingo Clue Cards.

After ensuring that all students understand the game format and rules, tell the students that the game they will play today is called Math Bingo. The object of the game is simple: listen to the clue, figure out the numerical answer to the clue, and then cover the number on your Math Bingo card (assuming your card contains the number).

4028 winner

Begin the game by reading clues aloud to students. The clue cards contain the description of the number the students will identify. Each clue card contains a description of a number highlighting specific mathematical terminology (underlined on the card). Students will need to understand the vocabulary in order to identify the number on their card. This may sound like a pretty simple objective, however, keep in mind that students will not be viewing the clue card. Students will need to listen to distinct math vocabulary, process the meaning of the clues, create a mental picture of the meaning, and then identify the correct number on the Bingo card.

When students identify the corresponding number as described on the clue card, you may wish to ask a student to explain out loud to their classmates his or her strategy for coming up with the answer. For example, the clue might be, "Find the number on your Math Bingo card that shows the diameter of a circle with a radius of four." To identify the number, the student must understand the terms diameter and radius in order to find the appropriate number on the card. The student must also know that if the radius is four, the radius needs to be doubled to find the diameter. This computation can be done mentally. Some students will double four, come up with the correct answer of eight, and mark it on their card. Other students, however, might understand the terms and the process for coming up with the answer, but may need to use paper-and-pencil to find the answer. Having pencil and paper available to students will encourage students to investigate their own strategies for finding the answers. In some cases, you may also wish to have calculators available to students.

Still others will know that the relationship between radius and diameter, but take half of four instead of doubling it to get an incorrect answer of two. A class discussion about how the answer to the clue was found will help to show students their errors.

The game proceeds as you continue to call out clues and the students listen. As in traditional Bingo, the cards have random numbers from 1–75. The goal is to cover enough of the numbers to record a Bingo in a manner agreed upon before the start of the game. The typical rule is to cover five-in-a-row in any direction, but other variations could include requiring all five to be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal; "blackout" or "cover all," in which a student has to cover every number on the card; or others. Note that some popular Bingo variations are not advisable, because they limit the numbers that will be used. One example is "four corners," in which students must cover the four corner squares on their card. This limits the available numbers to just 1‑15 and 61‑75.

After each clue is read aloud, you may choose to have a student explain his or her strategy for finding the answer. During this explanation time, other students’ understanding may be reinforced by hearing their own strategy explained or by being introduced to a new strategy of finding the answer. Alternatively, errors in their understanding may be revealed if their answer disagrees with the explanation.

For clues that are especially difficult, you might want to ask students to report their answers before discussing. If many students indicate an incorrect answer, have them discuss the clue with a classmate, and then poll the students again. This will often result in many students recognizing their error, and class consensus on the correct answer typically occurs.

When a student covers the numbers in the correct predetermined fashion, the student shouts, “Bingo!” He or she is the winner of the game, if all of the covered numbers are verified. (Check the numbers by having the student tell you which numbers he or she covered, and check to make sure that clues for all of those numbers have been called.)

Variations of the game are listed in the Assessments and Extensions tab.

Assessment Option

Use informal observation for this lesson. Walk around the room as you give clues, identifying students who seem to be having a difficult time with the vocabulary or who may not be able to apply their understanding of the terms to this specific activity. Further support in this area may be given at another time.


  1. During future games, you may want children to play individually with no explanation from classmates, or play in a group where students can talk with one another to communicate their understanding of the terms. During group play, the teacher or a student may read the clues. When a student is the clue reader, additional practice with reading standard and written form numbers is emphasized. You may wish to strategically place students in groups that will support individual levels of understanding.
  2. Have students come to the board after a clue is read and write or draw another variation of the term, either as a number problem or as a written example demonstrating the term. For example, if the clue is, “Six, nine and twelve are multiples of this number,” then a student might write "18, 24, and 15." These numbers are also multiples of 3 and will meet the mathematical vocabulary description on the clue card. As another example, if the clue is, "The difference between five and twelve," a student may represent the answer of 7 with a different subtraction problem, such as 20 – 13 = 7. The difference in the original clue and in the example is 7.


Questions for Students 

Questions to ask students will vary for each clue card, but you should always ask students to explain their answers. Some questions to get at their thinking follow: 

  1. What do you know about the math term that helped you find the number? 
  2. What strategy did you use to find the number? 
  3. Can you think of another example using the same math term? 
  4. Why are some of the math terms easier to "picture" in your mind than others? 
  5. Can you represent the meaning of the math term in a drawing? 
  6. Did anyone not know what the term meant, but still guessed the correct answer? If so, what strategy did you use to help you make an educated guess? 

Teacher Reflection

  • Are their specific content area terms that students seem to understand better than others?
  • What strategies are students using to come up with answers?
  • Are students able to visualize math terms, or are more students relying on pencil and paper to figure out the answers.
  • Is processing verbal information difficult for some students? If so, how do you know this?
  • Are there any students who have difficulties reading numbers in written format? If so, what can you do to build on this skill?
  • What strategies can you incorporate that will support students needing help with understanding math terms, yet challenge students who excel in application of math terminology?
  • Are students enjoying the Bingo game format as they practice their understanding of mathematics terms? How do you know? If not, what would make it more enjoyable?


Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Communicate their mathematical thinking.
  • Associate mathematical vocabulary terms to specific examples.
  • Identify numerical expressions described on the clue card.
  • Process information mentally.
  • Listen for details.
  • Understand numbers in written and extended forms.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results.
  • Select appropriate methods and tools for computing with whole numbers from among mental computation, estimation, calculators, and paper and pencil according to the context and nature of the computation and use the selected method or tools.
  • Understand relationships among the angles, side lengths, perimeters, areas, and volumes of similar objects.
  • Identify, compare, and analyze attributes of two- and three-dimensional shapes and develop vocabulary to describe the attributes.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

Grade 3, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.C.7
    Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 x 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.

Grade 4, Num & Ops Base Ten

  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.NBT.A.2
    Read and write multi-digit whole numbers using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form. Compare two multi-digit numbers based on meanings of the digits in each place, using >, =, and <. symbols to record the results of comparisons.

Grade 4, Num & Ops Base Ten

  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.NBT.B.5
    Multiply a whole number of up to four digits by a one-digit whole number, and multiply two two-digit numbers, using strategies based on place value and the properties of operations. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.

Grade 5, Num & Ops Base Ten

  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.B.5
    Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.