7 games that make math fun - 510 Families

7 games that make math fun

As a birthday present to myself, I am sharing a guest post from my husband, Alec. Alec is both a math lover and a board game lover. Consequently, so are our children. I hope these suggestions lead to many fun afternoons at your house, too!

We play a lot of math-related board and card games at home (Love Rat-a-tat-cat!) and I have a growing list of games to recommend that are neither typical (i.e. Monopoly) nor boring (like a lot of “math learning” games tend to be in my opinion). Instead, they're funny, colorful, and offer layered strategy to make them accessible to beginners and geeks alike.

While many of these games are listed as 8 years + or even 10 years +, I've found that with a very gentle introduction, all can be played by both our Kindergartener, Milo, and our 2nd grader, Holden:

Flea Circus: As the flea circus owner, you try to entice dogs and cats to come to your circus by playing different kinds of flea cards (acrobat fleas, bearded flea, etc) each with different values – the math is mostly in the rules of special cards and managing your dogs and cats. Learn more on boardgamegeek.com or Buy on Amazon.

Fun math games for kids: Flea Circus
Baker's Dozen (also known as “13”): You have to be able to do is add up numbers to see if they're more or less than 13. If you can make someone else “bust” 13 then they have to eat the moldy doughnut! Lowest score (i.e. least poison) wins. Originally known as Poison, the game style was made a little sweeter by introducing doughnuts rather than murder. Learn more on boardgamegeek or  Buy on Amazon.
Reiner Knizias Bakers Dozen teaches math
Loot: You are a pirate who steals other players ships by playing higher cards, but some ships are more valuable than others, so you have to be careful which ones you try to get. Buy on Amazon or learn more at boardgamegeek.
Loot is a fun math and strategy game
Black Sheep is a simplified poker game (a modified Hold 'em without the betting) where the “suits” are animals (a full house of 3 cows and 2 pigs beats two pair of 2 horses and 2 sheep) and when you win a hand you get to collect little plastic animals that you use to total up your score at the end of the game, with special bonuses for specific combinations of animals like whoever has the most horses, etc. Learn more on boardgamegeek or buy on Amazon.
Fun math game for families: Black Sheep
Carcassonne: Build cities, roads, and more. Place cards/tiles along and little worker figures which collect points for you over time (we drop the farmer rules for Kindergartener involvement, if you know the game) but fundamentally this game is just about counting. Learn more at boardgamegeek or buy on Amazon.
Non-boring math games: Carcassonne
Dungeon Raiders: Everyone playing is venturing into a dungeon together – each round you to play a card from each person's hand (numbered 1-5) to defeat a monster or acquire a treasure, by adding your cards together (this is collaborative game, so the adult can help direct the game/strategy the game but the kids get to make their own decisions). Currently out of print but you can probably score a copy on CraigsList. Learn more at boardgamegeek.
Fun math game for kids: Dungeon Raiders
Forbidden Island is more about strategy and logic than numbers but still collaborative and thus really fun for a group of kids. It requires players to plan and coordinate their moves in a way that will help them ALL escape the island before it sinks: “ok, Holden will move over there and give two treasure cards to Milo, and then on the next turn Milo you can collect the first treasure. After that I'll go over here so that part of the island doesn't sink. Ok, lets go!” Learn more on boardgamegeek or Buy on Amazon.
Cooperative family game that teaches math skills: Forbidden Island
What I particularly like about a lot of these games is that there is a lot more interplay between players than your typical board game.  Players are not just doing mental math for their own private (and thus boring!) gain. For instance, in Poison, you basically use math strategies to make another player “drink” the poison, which gets very funny when everyone bands together and makes Dad drink all the poison (or eat the moldy doughnut).
Please share your favorite family games and local game shops in the comments.
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Thanks to Alec for sharing his enthusiasm for family game time.

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2 thoughts on “7 games that make math fun”

  1. Pingback: Rookie Moms – Games preschoolers play

  2. Pingback: Rainy day activities for a megastorm — 510 Families

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