Board games for practicing math skills
December 27, 2017 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend some board games for teaching/practicing elementary-aged math skills or mathematical thinking to our 7yo? Bonus points if they're also interesting for adults, double bonus points if they're not also explicitly about teaching math skills.

My almost 7yo, who is homeschooled, loves board games. He hates doing math worksheets. We've found that he's perfectly happy to practice math skills through board games -- keeping score while playing Farkle or Yahtzee has taught him about place value and regrouping, for example.

Do you have suggestions for us, Metafilter?
posted by linettasky to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Hare and Tortoise maybe.
posted by aubilenon at 1:22 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lost Cities is built on math, but the theme of adventure and exploration (and the fast pace) will keep anyone from noticing. Quick setup and a lot of fun. Only drawback is that it's limited to two players.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 1:23 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are many games you can play with a regular deck of cards. For example, standard war, but you draw two (or more) cards and add them. Some more ideas here, most of which look somewhat interesting for adults, but are pretty explicitly about math skills.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:25 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

We just played Monopoly (Pokemon Monopoly, actually) for the first time with my 9 year old, and I was surprised by how much math he had to do. There's obviously a lot of making change, but also a surprising amount of multiplying
posted by gideonfrog at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2017

If you don't mind creating a profile, go to boardgamegeek and ask your question here:

You'll get tons of great recommendations.
posted by luvmywife at 1:30 PM on December 27, 2017

We have a game called Three Sticks that helps with geometry that my 7 year old loves to play.
posted by Jacob G at 1:31 PM on December 27, 2017

Homeschooled 8 year old in my house, and we all like Prime Climb. It is a number/math game, but it has clever color-coding that helps illustrate patterns in multiplication.

This game might be too easy because it's about adding up to 100 (40+60, 15+85, etc), but Clumsy Thief is a fun game.

Poker is good for explaining odds/statistics. We have a printout of the poker hands and for a few weeks we'd mark on it what hands came up -- the kid was betting wildly on one pair, not understanding how common they were till we'd kept track for awhile.
posted by xo at 1:40 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Cribbage (card game) has a good deal of counting and adding.
posted by hydra77 at 1:51 PM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Number Ninjas is all about math, but the questions are fun.

Sushi Go is a card game that uses creative scoring that involves some (not a lot) of math, and you could easily change the scoring for it to include more.
posted by Mchelly at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2017

I immediately thought of this cribbage post in which people talk about having learned math as kids by playing cribbage.
posted by asperity at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2017

Equations! It works from the elementary through high school levels. (Although I've linked to the league, there's no reason you can't just play at home amongst yourselves.)
posted by praemunire at 2:30 PM on December 27, 2017

Like gideonfrog we play Monopoly with our 6 yeat old (the junipr version) and it is great for math. We also make him the banker
posted by biggreenplant at 2:34 PM on December 27, 2017

I learned multiplication tables with a homemade game. You take a checkerboard, that's your grid. The factors are on the x and y axis. (You'll be missing one, we skipped nines because nines are easy if you know the trick) The products belong in the middle. Write out all the products on tile sized pieces of paper. Draw seven tiles, The one with a tile closest to the middle goes first, draw once if you can't play, the person out of tiles first wins.
posted by notned at 2:41 PM on December 27, 2017

Machi Koro is great for many ages and you can easily adjust what cards you're playing with for different levels of complexity. Math involves lots of counting, greater/less-than and multiplication as well as concepts like orders of operation and applying new rules to preexisting systems to get different outcomes.
posted by Mizu at 3:11 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I learned to play canasta at that age. Lots of maths.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:58 PM on December 27, 2017

Cribbage. I'm absolutely certain that early exposure to cribbage led to the ease I acquired mental math skills. It seemed to hold true with siblings, cousins, and my own children, too. (By early, I mean watching hundreds of hands played by adults by age 3 or 4, then "helping", and actively playing (and sometimes honestly winning) by about 5 or 6.)
posted by stormyteal at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2017

The Toymaker has a set of games/toys called the Mysterious Math Carnival that she created as her son was growing up. There are also a couple of math games on the Free Toy page.
posted by Altomentis at 4:45 PM on December 27, 2017

SET is a sorting/grouping game that has relatively simple rules and is challenging for adults as well as kids. It involves concepts rather than specific math skills. It can be a one-player or multi-player game. There is the original game, a Junior Set, and Set Dice if form factor matters. Plus it has some online puzzles to try out. The same company makes a five-suit rummy game called Five Crowns.

Rummikub is a rummy game with tiles.

Sequence is a classic board/card game based on canasta, rummy and poker.

Rack-O is a sequencing game from the 50s.

Mille Borne is one of my all-time favorites where players compete to travel 1000 kilometers (maybe miles in US version).

Ticket to Ride is train game that requires more time to complete.

20 Express gets lots of good reviews as a family game with kids as young as 7.

Clumsy Thief is a lot of fun and it is easy to not notice that you need a lot of math.
posted by Altomentis at 6:04 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Rat-a-Tat-Cat is a fun card game that requires basic math and strategizing.
posted by msbubbaclees at 6:16 PM on December 27, 2017

I'm constantly recommending SET, a matching game where you build sets based on a range of matching attributes. it's simple enough for preliterate kids to play and challenging enough for very advanced adults - and satisfying for everyone. Can't say enough about it. And certainly, it teaches all sorts of mathematical thinking skills, from the obvious "set" to isolating attributes, multiple attributes, and other classification and ordering skills.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mancala involves a lot if counting if you want to win but you can play it without strategizing.

Seconding Set for pattern recognition.
posted by typecloud at 5:53 AM on December 28, 2017

Lords of Waterdeep is pretty entertaining for adults and you end up doing a fair bit of addition and a bit of multiplication to keep track of points.
posted by maykasahara at 6:16 AM on December 28, 2017

Backgammon is absolutely fantastic for (a) internalizing shortcuts for addition (b) get a feel for odds/basic combinatorics and (c) practice multiplication if you are serious about computing who's ahead in the game.

I've learned playing it relatively late, but I'm pretty sure would've loved it as a kid.
posted by kmt at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2017

Challenge 24 is simple and fun, with different levels of difficulty, and it helps with mental math skills and thinking flexibly about numbers.

Also, +1 for Set.
posted by kayram at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2017

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