There have been a few incidents in the media that have highlighted just how terrifying helping your children with their math homework can be. So if, like me, you would like to avoid this exercise altogether then help your kids in other ways: by playing board games with them.
We have already written about the benefits of certain board games in the past, but here are another five educational games which may be lurking in a cupboard near you.
Chess (kids can start at any age but eight or nine years old is ideal)
One chess enthusiast has highlighted the similarities between the two: “In either, one’s success relies strongly on the ability to be creative under some set of rules,” he wrote.
A US teacher provided another insightful likeness: “Like a novice chess player, a math student will learn just as much if not more from her failures as from her successes.”
It’s true there is something about math and chess that go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it’s because success at both relies on the ability to follow rules, solve problems, strategy and logic.
We know that chess is good for math because studies say so. A particularly exciting piece of research found that students who received chess instruction are more likely to score higher in mathematics and nonverbal cognitive ability. And the two fields seem to have intrinsic connections as champions of one branch often succeed at the other.
Clue is a murder mystery game where players have to guess who murdered the victim, what weapon was used and where the crime took place. Those three “facts” are represented by three cards which are face down throughout the game. The rest of the players have to eliminate their own cards, and their competitors cards by suggesting scenarios. If you propose that Prof. Plum was killed with the candlestick in the ballroom room, another player can prove you wrong by showing you that they possess the poison card.
Why is any of this good for math? Well, the way the game is played is that only the person who made the suggestion can see which aspect of it is disproved. However, the rest of the players benefit from the knowledge and if they take thorough notes and make valid inferences they will eventually solve the mystery. In fact, the game works much like an algebra equation and apparently it has been used to instruct computer programming students on the values of propositional logic.
Bingo or Zingo (4+)
In Australia, Bingo is a game that is mostly enjoyed by men and women of a certain age. But it’s easy enough to be played by almost everyone.
Each player has a card with a random set of numbers, usually from 1-75, printed on it. A parent can draw a number out of a bag and read it out while the players cross it off if it’s on their card. The first person to have a full card has to call out “Bingo!” to claim victory. This is fantastic for younger children as it helps them to develop a better understanding of numbers.
For older children there is a slightly more complicated version of the game, tailored to teaching them math. It’s called Zingo 1-2-3. Players have to match the number on the tile to the corresponding math challenge card, which has an equation on it. They can yell out “Zingo!” when they have a full card.
Yahtzee is a dice game based on poker, but you can make it as complicated as you like. The objective of the game is to roll specific combinations of numbers with five dice. Different combinations attain different scores. And the rules of the game means that both strategy and chance have a significant role.
But, the great thing about Yahtzee is you don’t have to play by the rules. You can use the game as a way to introduce your children to math and to teach them various math concepts. There is something subconsciously more fun about playing with a dice than seeing numbers on a board.
I have to be honest with you and confess that I haven’t heard of Ludo, but my daughter is only two, and I see board games as a cardboard box full of choking hazards. Playing Ludo is straightforward and great for younger children. The Ludo board is divided into four squares, and each player moves their tokens – according to a roll of the die – into the center from their respective corners. The aim is to roll the exact number of the die necessary to land your token into the center.
The great thing about Ludo is that you don’t need to participate in the game at all (unless your kids are at risk of eating the pieces). Ludo teaches the kids the basics about numbers: it helps with their adding and subtracting skills as well as their counting knowledge.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.