9 Interesting Games For Understanding Negative Numbers

Just like we see an inverted image in a mirror, there are negative numbers on the other side of the number line. While we have positive numbers on the right side of the line, negative numbers are on the left. These numbers can compensate for general numbers. Say, -2+2 is 0.  By definition, negative numbers are those that are lesser in value than zero.

Seemingly, these might be taken for a concept that does not come into use practically. Moreover, negative aspects at a time can be taxing. Hence, here are some of our eminent picks of negative number games that students can look into to master the skill. 

Negative numbers- The numbers that are effective too!

Negative numbers have real-life applications, which makes it a concept that becomes imperative to learn and comprehend. Be it measuring temperature or describing a deficiency in the body, negative numbers often are useful in many applications. Looking into arithmetic math, negative numbers are employed in a few laws as well. 

The following real-life applications of negative numbers may motivate you to explore the edges of studying them:

  • The Sector of Banking and Finance

Banks and financial institutions entail debit, credits, and money. Due to this reason, we need to have numbers that differentiate between a credit and debit transaction. Profits and losses are also defined by positive and negative numbers, respectively. The stock market also uses the application of negative integers. They depict the ups and downs of the share price. Deposits are represented by a positive sign and withdrawals by a negative sign.

  • Science, engineering and medicine

Negative numbers are used in weather forecasting to show the temperature of a region.  They also help in showing the temperature on Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. Instruments like boilers and steam engines use pressure gauges and thermometers which are calibrated from negative to positive values, used by engineers. Even instruments for measuring blood pressure, body weight, and drug testing use a negative-positive integer scale.

  • Miscellaneous applications

In sports, negative integers are used to indicate the goal differences such as football, hockey, and basketball. In lifts, speedometers, and Alco-blows as well, negative and positive values are used.

Fun games for learning negative number concepts

1. The Twisted Snakes & Ladders 

The Twisted Snakes & Ladders

This is one of the most commonly played board games of every child’s childhood. Snake and ladder truly help in making us know the concept of addition, subtraction, positive numbers, and negative numbers. One can customize the board, and instead of making all the numbers as positive integers, you can include negative integers as well. Let the rules of the game remain the same otherwise. 

Through this game,  a child can also learn how to do operations like addition and subtraction of a negative and a positive integer and therefore learn the basic operations. 

2. Elevator


No lesson is more effective when it is being connected or related to daily life activities. Since the elevator has different floor levels, instead of mentioning the ground floor and basement, you can change the signs to 2nd floor, 1st floor, Ground floor as zero, basement as -1, parking as -2, etc.  

Through this way, you can make the child understand that, among negative integers, as the floor level decreases, the value of the negative number also decreases, unlike the positive numbers.

3. Hopscotch math game  

Hopscotch math game  

Most of us are familiar with this game called the Hopscotch math game. Instead of just drawing the positive integers, a mixture of negative and positive integers can be drawn along with the sign of the operation in other squares, which is a ‘+’ for addition and ‘-’ for subtraction. 

On whichever integers and on whichever operation sign the stone falls, the child has to calculate and hop down to that square, which indicates their correct answer.

This game will help in developing the mental math skills of the child in a better and quicker way. It will also help in doing a much better understanding of how to add and subtract the negative with the positive integers.

4. Apt Number

To start with, the teachers create a list of say 10 numbers. These numbers have to be converted in such a way as per the question is provided. For instance, the question there is a 40% discount on this, what is the deducted value. The students need to mention the number to be deducted in the form of a negative number. 

As an example, if the question is: the price is $400 and the discount is 25%, the answer would be -$100. By this game, students can understand how negative numbers are different not only by appearance but also in implementation. 

5. Negative number Sudoku

Negative number Sudoku

Sudoku is a 3*3 arrangement of grids with a few numbers. Here,  the player has to arrange numbers from 1 to 9 in such a way that the table is completed. While this game is facile for some, the application of negative numbers here can increase the complexity. 

To start with, the teacher fabricates a sudoku table with a few numbers in it. The student needs to complete it ensuring that there is a negative number in every row and column. This game can help the pupil to understand negative numbers effectively by strategically placing numbers in the table. 

6. Jigsaw puzzles 

Jigsaw puzzles 

To start with, the teacher creates five expressions with numbers and signs., and then breaks them up to form pieces of puzzles.   For instance, 1+(-3)=(-2) can be broken into 4 pieces: ‘1’, ‘+’, ‘(-3)’, and ‘=(-2)’. When the pieces are ready, the student is offered 20 pieces (5 questions * 4). Now, the learner needs to find the correct puzzle pieces to fabricate a righteous expression. 

This game will help in developing the observatory skills along with the thinking ability of your child. Learning and understanding negative numbers will get easier and more joyful.

7. Debts and Losses

Negative numbers are often seen in the umbrella of loss in many businesses. The same can be used to fabricate a game for preaching these notions. 

Debts and losses

To start with, the teacher needs to procure a couple of dice, paper, a pencil, and a ball. Next Up, the cost price of the ball is determined by the mentor, at which one student has to sell it to another (this number is kept less than 12). Now one student needs to roll the dice, the number that comes on the dice is the selling price of the ball. The student needs to check if the ball is sold in profit or loss. The amount of loss needs to be represented in negative numbers as an answer if any. 

For instance, the Cost price depicted is 10, and the student rolls the dice to see 8, here the loss is 2, and is to be represented as (-2).  This game can be repeated any number of times to check if the business ends up as profit or with debts. 

The game ensures the student relates negative numbers to real-life scenarios to better understand and practice it.  

8. Tug of War

Tug of War

We all have played a fun game of tug of war with our friends and family. But have you thought about a tug of war that helps children inculcate the basics of negative numbers? Not only identifying the numbers but even calculating them can be a cakewalk with this game. 

To start with, the teacher draws a number line on the floor, where the center of the rope is placed at zero. Students are divided into two teams and are motivated to play the tug of war, one on the positive side and the other on the negative side of the line. In this game, the teacher commentates on each update. For instance, if one team comes forward by say 2 inches, the instructor may comment that the team has been in a -2 inches position now. This way, the students in the game can infer their positions precisely, and also comprehend how negative numbers are used in real-life depictions. To ensure further learning, the players can check out the whole game on the scoreboard to check how many times the number has gone negative. 

This game evidently ameliorates team spirit, employment of numbers makes it further enticing and makes students know their status better with numbers, thereby noticing how these are pragmatically applicable. 

9.  Card game

Card game

This game of cards can be apt for students in groups of 2-4. To start with, a pack of cards is procured and joker cards are removed from it.  The black cards are considered positive and the red ones as negative. To start with, one person starts to mix up the pile and distribute 6 cards to each player. And turn one card to start and keep the rest of the cards aside. 

Now, the game starts with that person putting another card on it, making a sum of these. The same is done by other players too.  With black cards, the number is added; whereas, with red cards, numbers are subtracted (as they are negative numbers). The round finishes when the sum of these cards turns up to be 25 or more. The person who finishes with 25 is the winner of those cards and takes them. 

The second round starts again. The game can be continued till one player gets all the cards or can be winded up by calculating the value of cards with each player. In this case, the person with the highest value is the winner. 

Game with cards is often engrossing as this game demands the players to apply their skills to deal with positive and negative integers, and combine them with other mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, thereby implicitly letting the players practice. 


We hope these negative number games and activities will help the children have a fun learning experience with their classmates, friends, teachers, and parents. These promising games and activities will help in enriching and sharpening their mathematics skills and develop a better understanding of the number line as well. 

These games are creative, easy to play. Most of all, these do not require many resources. Change the rules as you like and bring in more twists for more fun to make it interesting and engaging.

Leave a Comment