Math… a word that strikes fear into the hearts of not only kids but also adults. I’ll never forget when I was learning long division I literally thought to myself, “there is nothing harder than this!” I toiled for hours over each problem, racking my brain for solutions. I thought it was difficult and I thought it was boring. Surprisingly, math doesn’t have to be boring. Making any subject into a game will catch a child’s attention and trick them into learning. Math board games for kids is the perfect place to get started!
My parents used a similar method to teach spelling. I can remember when I was learning the word “brigadier.” I couldn’t correctly spell it to save my life. My parents had me play a game where frogs playing instruments taught spelling. Looking back, that game was ridiculous but it was because of that game that I learned how to spell that word, the one which mocked my command of the English language…brigadier.
When I was having fun, learning wasn’t a chore and it wasn’t tedious. There is no difference with learning math. A lot of children feel the way I did. To many kids today, math is the hardest thing they will ever have to do. It’s a chore and they don’t want to master and focus on it. That is where math board games can come in to save the day. Learning math through playing is great for all ages.
Why Play Math Board Games?
People love to play games. Weird, games normally are designed to make it as hard as possible to achieve a given goal. That doesn’t sound like fun at all. But, it wouldn’t be any fun if all we had to do to win Monopoly was land on a single property and buy it. Or, if all you had to do to win Bingo was get any number on your board. No, we like to challenge ourselves. That is where the fun comes in, when playing a board game. We love not knowing if we will win and challenging ourselves to learn and develop a new skill.
According to the National Council on Mathematics, math board games teach math concept fluency. They provide “opportunities for meaningful practice.” When you just study a concept or formula over and over and over, you may learn the formula, but you also may have zero understanding of how to apply it.
Think about a time where you had to learn something new. When I was in high school I had an amazing Algebra teacher. He taught us the Quadratic formula to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”. This was awesome because I can still recite the quadratic formula. This is all well and great but until I actually understood how to apply the formula to real life scenarios, memorizing it was utterly useless. Math board games for kids teaches the concepts while demonstrating their applications.
Toddler (ages 1-3)
Infant to Toddler
Watching my son grow and develop from an infant to a toddler was terrifying, and as he grew I too had to grow as a mother. Being able to just give a baby a perfectly balanced diet through a bottle or breastfeeding was the best. Then we transitioned to real food and I was constantly worrying if my son was getting the nutrition he needs. It was scary. Especially when you have a toddler that refuses to eat any food that isn’t yellow or some other ridiculous rule they decide to implement and enforce. Toddlers can be totally strange and amazing all at the same time. Watching a toddler learn math brings up a lot of emotion from frustration (mostly on the part of the child) watching them figure out why the square isn’t fitting into the triangle shaped hole to joy when they finally master the concept of different shapes.
Toddler Math A Recipe for Success
The math skills a toddler develops are the foundation for the rest of their lives so getting them playing math board games is an awesome way to make that foundation strong. My son’s favorite board game right now is his geometric stacking toys. He loves to check out each shape as he stacks them and see how they fit with each other. A child playing with a stacking toy is learning about shapes, measurements (like height or width) and spatial relations.
Have you ever watched a toddler play with a shape sorter or any container and just put different toys in and out of the container over and over? You can see their brains developing size and shape awareness. They may try to fit their plastic milk carton into the container and it won’t fit. Then they try to fit the plastic egg and it fits with no problem. They will try this over and over with tons of different toys. This repetitive activity teaches them some vital skills from shape sorting to measurements. It is never too early for a child to start learning math.
Preschool (ages 3-5)
A Passion for Life
Before a child enters Kindergarten there are several math skills they are expected to master. Like simple addition, subtraction, counting, numbers, shapes, comparisons, and so much more! Preschoolers are some of the most enthusiastic people on this planet. This is totally refreshing and also a little (and by a little, I mean very) overwhelming. Am I right – can you say little angel to full-blown meltdown in a single aisle of the grocery store? But they have this wonder and awe for the world around them that adults forget.
Preschool Math Skills
Have you ever seen a child playing with Magnetic Tiles? They proudly build this amazing tower brimming over with excitement and concentration as they place the last piece. Then the next second they knock it over and burst into laughter, excited to start it all over. They are learning some pretty amazing math skills. Like sorting, stacking, adding, subtracting, shapes, and measurements.
Early childhood is a remarkable time in a child’s life. What a child learns before the age of five will set them up for the rest of their life. One really fun game for preschoolers is The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game. This game teaches matching, sorting, counting and basic math skills. This is a great first board game for kids!
Remember the countless hours having a blast playing Hi Ho Cherry-o as a kid? Well, guess what? We were learning math. Yep, math is ingrained in some of our fondest childhood memories. Hi Ho Cherry-O is all about counting and numbers. It teaches you addition, subtraction, and counting while pretending to pick cherries and get them in your basket. There are so many math board games for kids that are perfect for preschoolers!
Kindergarten (age 5-6)
It is absolutely insane how fast time goes by once you have a child. One second they are 5 days old then you blink and you are dropping them off at kindergarten! How does this happen? Honestly though, how does time get exponentially faster the second you have a baby? I would love to understand this phenomenon. But back to the math board games for kids, the real reason we are here! (I know you don’t want to hear me ugly cry thinking about my 14-month-old son heading off to college).
Before he starts receiving offer letters from Ivy League schools, he will need to learn to count. He will learn this in Kindergarten. Children at this age are learning the words for 0-20 as well as what they mean.
Monkeys Up is a game created by a math teacher to develop children’s math skills and received the 2017 Game of the Year Award by Creative Child Magazine. You win the game by getting the highest numbered monkey. You use a cube to get directions on how to collect the monkeys. This teaches children addition and counting in a fun interactive board game, and of course, there are monkeys…kids love monkeys.
Another great board game for Kindergarteners is Sums in Space. This game teaches children addition and subtraction (from 0-9) and has 3 different difficulty levels so the game grows with your child. I love this board game because it not only involves math skills but it is a co-operative play board game. The players work together to achieve the common goal of completing your deep space mission and return to your rocket ship.
Elementary (Ages 6-11)
6-8 Year Olds
Many kindergarteners will only attend school for half a day. This can make the transition to first grade a little scary and intimidating. They will be away from their home, loved ones, and stuffed animals an entire school day.
While this can be rough, kids eventually have fun spending an entire day with their friends while learning new skills. Between the ages of 6 and 8 children will be learning a ton of math skills like place value, money, estimation and number bonds. These are math skills children will use every day for the rest of their life.
Money Money Money Moooney (high voice) Money
I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a store or to the movies or out to eat where I have been given the wrong change. One time when I was at Six Flags Great America I paid for something using a 10 dollar bill and was handed two twenties and some change back. It was crazy, but I had won the change lottery. Giving children the basic foundation for counting change is crucial for success in later life.
Money Bags Coin Value Game is a highly awarded game for kids that teaches them to count and exchange money. This game is for 2-4 players that involves plastic coins, play dollar bills, and dice. It reinforces counting skills while developing a deep understanding of the concept of money. This includes how to exchange money and what each coin and dollar is actually worth. Children get to practice with this game before mistakes get too costly.
Having a child 6-8 years old means being on the go. You need a game that is easy to bring with you to places, doesn’t require a ton of set up, and can be played quickly. Well, Spot It! takes the cake for an on the go game. This game develops a child’s visual perception, observation, and math skills. The way the game works is you are trying to be the first to spot the symbol that two cards have in common. It may sound easy but it can get pretty intense and children learn to think quickly and to make geometric comparisons. It’s the perfect game for a road trip.
9-11 Year Olds
When children are in 5th or 6th grade they learn about operations, algebraic thinking, fractions, measurements, and geometry. These concepts can seem a little daunting to a child and really put them off to the idea of math in general. Let’s get real, it’s daunting to a lot of adults. So, finding math board games for kids of this age is a perfect way to encourage a child’s love of math.
An award-winning game called Q-bits teaches kids all about patterns and sequences. You are given a tray of wooden cubes and a card with a pattern on it. The players are in a race to replicate the pattern and the first to do so gets the card (aka point). For a fun twist and to increase the difficulty, a player can take ten seconds to look at the card and try to recreate the pattern from memory. This board game teaches children how to spot patterns while developing critical thinking skills.
Middle School (Ages 12-14)
The Awkward Years
Middle school is an awkward time for everyone. Kids are dealing with puberty, acne, braces and weird feelings from all these raging hormones. I am a middle school dance coach, I can attest things haven’t changed since you were this age. I see that at this age, children start to think they are too cool for things. Like playing or spending time with their family.
Tablets, Laptops and Screen-Time, Oh My!
At this day in age of tablets, computer games, and social media, we need to get creative with getting our children to invest their time in screen-free educational activities. Finding a board game that a middle schooler is going to love and want to play with their friends while being educational can be a challenge, but there are tons of games out there that will fit this description.
A great example for this age group (this is more for 13+) is Pandemic. This game is completed in under an hour and involves everyone working together to save the world from a disease ravaging through society. It teaches advanced critical thinking for math and strategy. The players must work together to move specialists to various parts of the world to stop a disease outbreak. The players develop a plan to move all over the world with only a certain amount of moves. This game is intense, entertaining and really fosters development of critical thinking all through co-operative play.
So get out there and play some math board games with your children or students. You are setting them up for lifelong success and the child will have fun learning.