Math Game Short List 2018

August 10, 2018

In 2011 I posted a “short list” of favorite math resources for parents of young children. Since then, a lot of fantastic new materials have emerged! I thought the list was due for an update.

There are so many resources around that it’s easy to make the list too long. I’m breaking it up into separate lists—games, books, websites, etc.—and I’ll keep each one relatively short, and include only materials I think are absolutely top notch. I’ll be leaving a lot off, but if you feel I’ve missed something vital, please write a comment.

I’m also leaving off a lot of classics: Chess, Go, Backgammon, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Yahtzee, Pente, Connect 4, Sorry, Othello, Mastermind, and so on. These games are all fantastic for encouraging math thinking. They’re also quite well known.

With that said, I give you the updated…

Short List of Math Games

Pencil and paper games

Image from wikipedia

  • Nim — I spent many car trips playing nim with my little brother. Later, I read about “nimbers” and other contributions to game theory and set theory based on the game.
  • Hex — Phenomenal game, which I’ve used in math classes and with students for years. There are some beautiful geometric and topological questions that arise from the game, but the strategy alone is enough to make it worth playing. You’ll need to print up a board to play.
  • Dots and Boxes — Kids can play this game endlessly. Some beautiful strategy, and also good exposure to arrays and multiplication.

Card games

  • Cribbage — I played cribbage incessantly when I was a kid. I credit it with my skill in adding and finding combinations.
  • Casino — Another classic from my youth. Really fun, and also great practice for adding and subtracting, and subtler strategies. I recommend Royal Casino, with Sweeps.

Games involving special decks

  • Tiny Polka Dot – we invented this card deck to make the mathematics more explicit and inviting. Perfect for building meaningful numeracy with kids age 3 – 8. (buy on Amazon)
  • Set – a classic family game. Takes a little to develop the instinct for finding matches, but super fun once you get the hang of it. (buy on Amazon)
  • 24 –  Another classic. If the speed aspect doesn’t work for your kids, it’s pretty easy to remove. (buy on Amazon)
  • Rat-a-tat Cat – Okay, technically this is just a dressed up version of the game of Golf. Still, kids like the cards, and it’s a great game. (buy on Amazon)

Board Games

  • Prime Climb – this one is ours too, and we’re really proud of it. The board is color-coded to give a completely different insight into how multiplication and division work, and it supports a much deeper understanding and flexibility of arithmetic. (buy on Amazon)
  • Gobblet Gobblers – I wish I thought of this game first. Such a simple, clever strategy game. Like Tic-Tac-Toe, but way, way better. For the harder version, check out Gobblet. (buy on Amazon)

Puzzle Games

ThinkFun stands out as the top puzzle game publisher. Their entire portfolio is excellent, but I especially recommend Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, and Laser Maze.

Other Resources

Any I’m missing? Of course! But other folks folks have great lists too. Some good ones to check out:

Let me know what else I should know about! And remember…

“What books are to reading, play is to mathematics.”

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Robynn Hofmeyr
Robynn Hofmeyr
4 years ago

Thanks so much. Fantastically helpful with sharing the fun of numbers with my students, aged 5 to 14.

4 years ago

I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing thiks website.

4 years ago

Dan, do you know DragonBox? I really thought it was a great (mobile) game for geometry and algebra. (Separate games). I like that the object of playing is just to keep playing. The reward is math itself. I won’t write everything about it, but I do like it a lot.

PD. I just got my Prime Climb, and now I need people to play it with.

Jennifer Kendzior
Jennifer Kendzior
3 years ago

Thank you. Your website is incredible. I’m grateful for the access.

Sandra Williams
3 years ago

Muggins Math is my favorite of all time.

3 years ago

Love this math. All of your efforts to get this out to so many is appreciated greatly.
Not as happy with the benefits you provide Amazon but I know it is so easy for people to use.
Thank you a million times!! or infinity

3 years ago

Are you to explain more about what skills the game Set develops in regards to math?

1 year ago

I have been reading Orlin’s book Math Games with Bad Drawings – awesome resource!