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Activities to Teach Odd and Even to Primary Students

By Margo Dill

One of the first exciting things elementary students learn about numbers, besides counting, is that there are odd and even numbers. You can play games as a whole class or in pairs as well as provide online practice. Before long, students will easily label a number as odd or even.

Defining Odd or Even

Before any activities, games or worksheets, you'll teach primary students the definition of odd and even numbers. An odd number is one that cannot be divided equally by 2, and an even number is the opposite. Of course, that's harder to teach first graders who don't know what division is but first grade teachers have been teaching students odd and even numbers for years with pictures, sets, number lines and a lot of practice. Each year, primary teachers also review the definition during math lessons. To create an atmosphere of excitement and make learning fun, you can teach students how to play the following games or activities.

What Number Am I?

Here is a whole class activity for reinforcing odd and even numbers. Students should have some understanding of what an odd or even number is to play this game. You can also give students a number line with odd numbers in red and even numbers in blue until they master the skill.

The teacher begins by giving students a riddle, such as: "I am thinking of an even number. It is less than 20. It is between 5 and 7." Students guess the correct answer. Then the teacher can either give another riddle or ask the student who guessed correctly to give the next riddle. The first clue should always be whether the number is odd or even. This is a great activity if you have a small amount of time such as waiting in line to go to lunch.

Odd or Even Posters

Primary students can create odd or even posters in a couple different ways.

  • Assign each student to make either an odd or an even poster. For example, student A is supposed to make an even poster, so he will write EVEN at the top, write some even numbers in colorful markers, and then maybe even write the definition of an even number, depending on his age. Then student B does the same thing for odd numbers and so on.
  • Another variation is for students to pick a number out of a hat and create a poster about it. One of the criteria for the poster is they have to list whether or not the number is an odd or even number. They can also list other things about the number. For example, if the student chooses a 7 out of the hat, she could put on her poster, "It's an odd number. It's between 6 and 8. 1 + 6 =," and so on.
  • Finally, the last variation is students write all the numbers between 1 and 20 or 30 and 50 on their posters. Then they choose two colors--one color for all the odd numbers and one color for all the even numbers. They create a key to show what the different colors mean. They have created their very own number line.

Matching Game

Most students will know how to play the typical matching game where symbols or pictures are on cards. The cards are flipped over, so they cannot see the picture or symbol. Then they take turns with another player to try and find matches for each symbol. The person who has the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner.

To practice odd and even numbers, students can play a variation of this game. You will need to create cards out of index cards or cardstock with sets of matching numbers--some odd and some even. Each pair of students should have at least 20 pairs (or a total of 40 cards). Ten of the sets should be even and ten should be odd. Once students match a pair of numbers, playing with the traditional rules, they have to say whether or not the numbers are odd or even. If they answer correctly, they get to keep the pair. If they answer incorrectly, then the cards go back on the playing table. Students can check their answers with a color-coded number line that you have on display in the room, or each set of cards can come with a "cheat sheet," which shows the numbers in that set and whether they are odd or even.

Online Opportunities

Some children learn best online, and so here are a few websites your students can visit to learn more about the concept of odd and even:

Primary Odd and Even Storybook

BBC Online: Starship Number Jumbler

Soft Schools: Odd or Even game

Make It Fun

No matter which method or activity you try, remember that kids do learn while having fun. While children are playing learning games, you can visit with them and assess where they are in mastering the skill. Students will be at ease because they are enjoying themselves, and they won't even realize you are doing an assessment. From there, you can decide how much more practice your students need on odd or even numbers.


Sixteen years teaching experience in preschool and elementary classrooms