Practicing math skills can be fun—and it doesn’t always have to feature numbers or equations. Some board games sneak in counting, sequencing and strategy as your child plays. Beyond classics like Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Connect Four and Yahtzee, these unique board games can help your child practice math skills.
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Feed the Woozle
The Woozle is a monster who loves silly snacks—but the treats in this game aren’t like the ones in Candy Land. Kids may roll the die and end up handing out chocolate-covered flies and hairy pickles! In this cooperative game, preschoolers work with—not against—up to four other players to count out the right amounts and types of food. Or they work to match pairs of food cards. Feed the Woozle has three levels of play, so it may have a long shelf life.
Simple addition and subtraction keep the critters moving around this marsh. To advance around the board, players must roll two numbered dice and a third that has “+” and “-” signs. Players use the dice to figure out how many paces their frog, snail, dragonfly or alligator can move ahead. Kids can take as long as they like to solve the equations. Strong mental math skills aren’t required for this game, so players can use pencil, paper and other tools if needed.
Qwirkle is a little like dominoes, a lot like Sequence and Uno, and similar to Bounce-Off. Players try to score points by creating lines of tiles with matching colors or shapes. That requires strategizing and recognizing patterns—two key math skills. In Qwirkle, kids have to pay attention to different shapes on the tiles, including circles, squares, clovers and stars. Players can take turns tallying points or work together to add them up.
Like Battleship, Battle Sheep is a game of strategy. But there are no boats on these boards—just flocks of sheep moving into new pastures. To play, each player divides his stack of sheep chips and takes turns trying to place sheep in a line across the other player’s land. This involves spatial planning and counting, and kids with math anxiety may like that there are no numbers in this game.
Grade-schoolers don’t just get rich as they play this game. They also practice collecting, counting and exchanging money. Using plastic coins and paper dollar bills, players solve challenges like figuring out how to get 32 cents from the bank without using any quarters. The player who reaches the finish line first gets a bonus. (For similar games, check out The Game of Life and The Allowance Game.)
Ticket to Ride
In this multiplayer role-playing board game, players compete to travel by rail to the most cities in North America in just seven days. Players collect cards that show which railway routes connect to one another. The longer their routes, the more points they earn. No money changes hands in this game. But players use key math skills like strategy and reasoning. And as with Settlers of Catan, many Ticket to Ride fans can’t stop playing once they understand the rules.
Fractions, Decimals, Percents Bingo
Playing traditional bingo helps kids practice recognizing one- and two-digit numbers. This ramped-up version goes much further. Playing involves math skills as well as flexible thinking. Here’s how it works. The bingo “caller” shows a card with either a fraction, decimal, or percentage on it. Players can mark off any version of that amount. For example, if a card shows “1/3,” players can mark off “.33” or a six-piece pie chart with two pieces missing. (Quizmo and 20 Express are similar math bingo games.)
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About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Brendan R. Hodnett, MAT is a special education teacher in Middletown, New Jersey, and an adjunct professor at Hunter College.