Sitting down to another math worksheet or a set of flashcards can be discouraging for kids who struggle with math or have dyscalculia. And for parents who are trying to help, it can be troubling to watch that frustration. Not all math practice has to be on paper. In fact, playing math games can be a good way to teach math skills to kids who are struggling.
About Math Games
There’s a difference between a game and the math activities your child’s teacher uses in the classroom. An activity is something all kids do together to try to learn a new skill. A math game involves trying to win by choosing strategies as kids move through the game. Unlike a whole-class math activity, a math game can support your child’s individual needs in math.
Games come in many different formats. There are board games, card games, computer games, video games and even apps that provide math practice. No matter what the format, a good math game requires kids to problem-solve and make mathematical decisions. In games that have two or more players, those decisions have to take into consideration the moves other players make, too. The most effective math games:
- Are challenging
- Have rules and structure
- Include a clear ending point
- Focus on specific math skills
The Benefits of Playing Math Games
Math games are much more than a pleasant change from pencil and paper work. There are benefits for your child, too. The games are designed to be fun. When playing them, your child may be less likely to worry about failing or making mistakes.
That can reduce math anxiety and help your child develop a more positive attitude toward math. Other benefits of math games:
- Kids can discover practical, real-life ways to apply math skills.
- Kids who have different levels of skills and ways of thinking can learn from each other.
- Kids can explore math in formats they know and enjoy (such as on gaming systems or mobile devices).
- Kids can test new strategies and ideas without feeling the pressure of being graded.
Playing math games together can also help you get a better idea of your child’s strengths and weaknesses without a formal assessment.
Types of Math Games
You may not even know that some of the skills you use every day are math skills. Once you know what skills certain types of games work on, you can pick games that help build the skills your child most needs.
- Board games help kids practice matching the sets of dots on a die, or a set of objects, to the correct number of spaces to move. A game like Candy Land, for example, would fit into this category.
- Board books also help kids match numerals and set of objects. In Eric Carle’s 123 pull-tab board book, for example, kids have to pull the right number tab to match the items on the page.
- Matching games ask kids to keep track of where they saw items and patterns. Dominoes also lets kids practice matching numbers and sets.
- Mystery games, such as 20 questions or Guess Who? ask kids to keep information in mind to use as a strategy for narrowing down to the correct answer.
- Spatial strategy games ask kids to come up with ways to move pieces in order to block or capture other pieces. This includes games like chess, checkers, Connect Four and Battleship.
- Numerical strategy games involve removing, getting rid of or rearranging pieces to win. This includes games like mancala and card games, such as Uno and trash.
- Resource-management games, such as Monopoly or Carcassone, ask kids to think about how much money or resources (such as property) they have and how they can use them to get to a goal.
If you want to get ready, get set and play math games with your child, it’s not that hard to get started. You can begin slowly with games you already have and know. You may also be interested in some of our suggestions for skill-building board games for preschoolers and grade-schoolers and video games for tween and teens. Have fun!