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Teaching Math By Making Up Your Own Rules for the Pokemon TCG!

Guest Writer: Nicole Tanner

Lots of games are designed specifically to teach something. But often, you can find ways to teach with otherwise “un-educational” games. My daughter’s interest in Pokémon has provided us with an opportunity to teach math. The main Pokémon TCG is a great way to teach addition and subtraction, but we had to improvise a bit and the result ended up teaching multiplication.

Ana had been asking for Pokémon cards for a few months, so when Emerald City Comic Con rolled around my husband came home with a slew of cards, picked up willy-nilly from multiple booths. Not having played the game ourselves, we had no idea we had to have a “Trainer’s Kit” in order to play the game properly. Ana still wanted to play with her cards until we got one, so my husband designed a variation on “War.”

 

 

Here’s the basic idea. Each player has a deck of Pokémon – no Trainer Cards or Energy – just Pokémon. The number of cards in the deck doesn’t really matter as long as each player has the same amount. Evolutions and special powers don’t matter either. Taking turns, each player picks a Pokémon from their deck to play. The other player then selects a Pokémon from their own deck to do battle.  You have to figure out how many hits it would take for your Pokémon to beat the other one using the highest scoring attack on each card. The Pokémon that would use the least hits to knock out his opponent wins. Once the match is over, the winner gets both cards. You continue playing this way until the decks are empty. Then the player with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Ana picked up the gameplay rules after just a few play-throughs, and she was able to figure out the math with little help pretty quickly. We now have all the pieces to play the real thing, but the official card game is a bit too complicated for her to understand at this age. This game suits her skill level and doesn’t mean the hundreds of Pokémon cards have to go unused until she can understand the real thing.

Oh, and it’s helping her learn math.

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Family Board Game Review: Poop The Game

Poop the Game from Breaking Games is a toilet and pooping themed card game.  It is a 2-5 player game recommended for ages 6 and up. A second deck, labeled the Party Pooper Edition, can be incorporated to make this up to a 10 player game. Play time is estimated at 15 minutes.  This was a Kickstarter in 2014 that was successfully funded and has expanded since then to include a Public Restroom Edition, which was also funded through Kickstarter.  

 

Contents

  • Cards:
    • Poop cards
    • Toilet cards
    • Wild cards
    • Drinking rules card
    • Poop Remix cards (4): provide alternative rules and objectives to the games
    • Deep Doo Doo Remix, for advanced play and 2 player games

 

Gameplay

The objective of the game is to be the first to run out of cards.  To play, a toilet card is placed in the center.  The number on it represents the “clog” number.  Each player is dealt five cards and take turns placing cards on the toilet, and cards are stacked staggered so they all are visible.  Cards with poop on them have a value from one to four bases on the amount of poop represented.  Players are not allowed to meet or exceed the clog number.  If the only cards they have will meet or exceed the clog number then the toilet is “clogged” and they have to add all the cards from that toilet to their hands and flip a new toilet card.  If three cards of the same color are played in a row the toilet is flushed, all other players draw a card and the “flusher” begin play again using the same toilet.  Wild cards add interesting twists to the strategy of the game. On the wild cards there are directions containing sounds or actions on the bottom of the card, and when the wild card is played the player must do this sound/action until another player plays the same wild card.  Failure to do so results in having to draw a card if it is noticed by another player and called. Some of the actions are “grunt on turn”, “hold nose on turn”, and  “fart sound on turn”.

 

Family Game Assessment

This game was as ridiculous as it sounds.  It was played with two boys; a five year old and an eight year old. They enjoyed the game and found its theme hilarious.  In contrast, I had some reservations about the theme, and found the cards gross. The poop cards show poop piles with flies and some have corn pieces in the poop.  The noises and descriptions on the wild cards also added to the crass nature of the game. While the game is recommended for ages 6 and up, I was uncomfortable playing with my two boys, as it was encouraging behaviors I am trying to teach them are not appropriate in most situations, such as imitating bathroom sounds.

There are also additional directions to make this a drinking game.  On the box it says, “It’s a kids game! It’s a drinking game! Just not a kids’ drinking game.”  As a parent I am uncomfortable with a game that comes with drinking rules in the game, and is advertised as a drinking game right on the box.

Conclusion

While the game itself is easy to play and learn, the poop theme, descriptors on the cards to act out, and the drinking game elements make it hard to recommend this game to the average family. This could be a fun and silly game for the right family and the right situation, however, I do not feel it will be a good fit for many families.

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March 14th is International Pi Day and we thought we would celebrate by talking to one of our favorite math-heads: Jenna Hoffstein. She is the founder of Little Worlds Interactive; the company behind The Counting Kingdom. (It is a great game by the way. It ended up being one of the best games we played last year!)
Let’s hear what Jenna has to say shall we?
You developed the Counting Kingdom with Little Worlds Interactive. You could have chosen ANYTHING to make a game about. What made you settle on a game about teaching math?
 I grew up playing many different educational games – everything from Carmen SanDiego to Treasure Mountain.  I poured so many hours into these games because I truly enjoyed them, and also happened to learn quite a bit about math or english or geography at the same time.  I make educational games because I want to create those same experiences for today’s kids!  I picked math right off the bat because it’s an area that can be very stressful for both kids and parents.  Math is fascinating and yet interest in the subject is at an all-time low, and kids as young as five are developing math anxiety.  We make math games with the hope of having a positive impact on this situation, and because I want to show kids that math can be exciting!
 ~~~
Do you have any plans for future development in The Counting Kingdom? Is there a sequel in the works? Or are you moving on for now?
We’ll see!  The studio is pursuing a few different options right now, so I can’t yet answer this question for certain.
 ~~~
The Counting Kingdom seems to be having a lot of success! It was one of our top five games of the year for 2014, but we’ve seen that you have received other recognition as well. How does it feel to see something you have made get so much praise?
Thank you!  It’s truly hard to find the words for how it feels to see so much wonderful recognition for The Counting Kingdom.  It’s both validating and exciting to know that people are enjoying and appreciating the game, and I hope it can lead the way for more educational games that go beyond the quiz model.  It’s wonderful to be recognized with awards, but the moments that truly make it worthwhile are when I see a kid enjoying the game, or hear about a student’s math scores improving because of the time they spent playing The Counting Kingdom.
 ~~~
A lot of our readers have children who are aspiring game designers. Do you have any advice as to how to nurture that dream?
This is a great time to be a kid interested in game development.  Kids can learn programming logic and reasoning with apps like Move the Turtle or My Robot Friend.  For those who want to jump in and make games there are programs like Scratch, GameMaker and Twine, all of which are designed to be accessible for a wide range of ages.  I am also a huge fan of Minecraft and how kids can use the Lego-like blocks to create amazing worlds!
 ~~~
Do you or your company have any plans to celebrate the extra special Pi Day ?
Of course!  We can’t let our biggest math holiday pass by without a celebration.  For the Pi Day weekend the PC & Mac version of The Counting Kingdom will be on sale for $3.14!  You can pick up a discounted copy from Steam or the Humble Store.
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Publisher – iMagine Machine

Reviewed for iOS

Overall Review:

The Land of Venn - Mobile game

This game gets nuts if you don’t learn your geometric shapes!

Some of our favorite games recently have been focused on teaching math. None of those games, however, focused much on geometry. That is all changing today with the iOS game The Land of Venn.

The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense is an adorable lane based defense game where players defend their “home base” by drawing geometric shapes using their enemies as points. For example, tapping on an enemy creates a “Point” which does a small amount of damage. Sliding your finger from one enemy to another will create a straight “Line” which will do even more damage, and so on. The levels get very challenging as time goes on so players will need to think quickly and use the various shapes to their advantage. You simply cannot just tap on one enemy until it dies or you will lose quickly.

The learning is all in the form of repetition here. There is a voice actor who will call out the name of the shape being created each time it is used. This repetition is great for rote memorization of geometric terms. The voice acting does, however, get a tad bit old after a while for people not playing the game. We had our sons use headphones after a bit.

All that said, The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense is an excellent game and will help establish a basic understanding of geometric shapes for your children without making them feel like they are memorizing shapes and charts. That is worth a loud voice actor any day of the week.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The art style is very reminiscent of the 90’s Nick Toon AAAAAH! Real Monsters. There is nothing to be concerned about here.

Playability Assessment:

This game was challenging, but even younger players will be able to grasp the early levels here. They just need to learn that tapping on enemies is a bad plan. Once they move past that strategy they will be able to progress.

The controls are all touch-based and there is very little reading involved.

Conclusion:

The Land of Venn is a must buy for parents who are looking to make sure the tablet games their children play have educational value. This is especially true for home school parents. This is a great way to casually establish a base of knowledge for higher level math.

Disclosure: Review code was provided for the purposes

 

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Kitki
2-4 Players
Family
30+ Minutes
COMPETITIVE

A long time ago, when I was a child myself, tic-tac-toe was an endless stream of winless frames. My mother showed me the most amazing game that could ever be played on the back of a restaurant placemat. She began by using a pen she kept in her purse to draw what seemed like an expansive square of deliberately spaced dots and instructed us to use the three restaurant provided crayons to begin drawing one line at a time between them.

We obliged, and soon, she had closed off a square and emblazoned the intervening space with the ominous and forever taunting letter, “M” (for mom).  Once we caught on to this plot, letters began to appear everywhere, before we knew it, our primary colored maze of squares and line segments was a resting place for the bright orange of macaroni and cheese and the chocolate laden smiling face of an ice cream clown.

Since this isn’t a review of that simple, on-demand game that parents everywhere use to hasten the apparent time between ordering and the arrival of unnaturally colored cheese. You are probably wondering why I am taking this trip down memory lane. Well, Three Sticks is basically what you get when you combine the original dot-matrix design (yes, I know what I did there) with Scrabble-like point gains and variable sized pieces.  Except, instead of making a simple square of area 1 unit2, you are attempting to build much more complicated and interesting polygons.

This isn’t your mother’s dinner distraction, this is a forward-looking strategy game with points based on the shape, it’s perimeter (you might have to remember that from school) and how unique that shape is to the game (has it been played before).  Also, there are Scrabble-like bonus points scattered around the board to give you a chance to take your score even higher.

The board consists of a 26×26 grid composed of dots (way bigger than any board my mother ever made), bordered by 4 color-coded number lines for each player to keep score as they work to reach the ultimate, game ending score of 500.  What’s interesting about this line is it uses 3 tokens to keep track of 10’s position, so were you to score 114 points, you’d move one token to 100, one to 10 and the last to 4.  It cuts down on the space needed significantly and helps to promote better understanding of multiples and 10’s and 100’s place counting and addition for higher numbers.  It’s an innovative method for score-keeping that also promotes a different way of thinking about large number addition.

To begin the game players are dealt 5 “Power Cards” that they keep for the duration of the game.  They also select one “Reload” card that provides them with some combination of 6 sticks for use on their turn. Sticks come in three varieties, hence the name of the game, a 3-unit purple stick, a 4-unit orange stick and a 5-unit red stick.  The sticks may only be played if they are end-to-end with another already placed stick, and only the red stick can be played at an angle.  If you remember your trigonometry, you might recall this Pythagorean triple.  If not, when a segment with a length 4 intersects at a right angle to a segment of length 3, the resultant triangle will have a hypotenuse of 5 (a2 + b2 = c2).  In non-math, if a purple stick and an orange stick are aligned at their edges where one is vertical and one is horizontal the red stick will make it a triangle.

The oldest player goes first (because they are at a first turn disadvantage unless they have power cards to help them to score) and has a series of actions they can take.  Unfortunately, this is one of the parts of the game that needs some polish, as it is unclear whether the actions must be taken in the order given, or not.  We assumed they should be, which made some of the power cards work poorly on their own.

First, if the player has no sticks, they may draw a reload card to gain 6 more.  Next, a player may play a stick, for the first turn, an end of that stick must touch the central “X” of the board.  On subsequent turns, if that stick makes a shape, it’s scored.  Then another stick may be played, which will trigger another scoring.  After this is complete, that player may play up to two power cards from their hand.  Power cards add mechanics like “Skip”, “Gain two sticks”, or “Play two more sticks” to the game. They can even allow you to play sticks completely independently of the board or to manipulate points.

Once the player has finished the turn, play moves on.  When a shape is made, if it is the only shape made by that stick, it is scored simply with the method above.  If it creates more than one shape, the active player must determine the highest point shape they can be credited with to gain the most points.  This deliberation and puzzling out can take some time, and the more disparate the level of the players, the more frustrating this can be.  With younger players, it helps to point out the shapes and let them determine the highest point values from your calculations.  Older players have the ability to look forward and to plan moves to trick opponents into giving them higher point plays, also older players are more aware of multi-faceted shapes and how they can vary, whereas younger players will need that explained and will require assistance.

Adding the perimeter to the point calculation is also quite ingenious, it strengthens the child’s ability to understand the concept of a shape’s size and it also gives them a visual relationship to the term.  With a younger child, I’d suggest either not using this calculation or doing it for them.  Having the child recognize the bonus shape on the poster will help develop the understanding of higher tier shapes, and larger numbers.  Older children can have it taken a step further, for an added challenge, have the child calculate points in area of the shape as opposed to perimeter, this variation could allow for reinforcement of multiplicative skills, as well as a better grasp of how to assess area for abnormal shapes.

Conclusion

Overall, Three Sticks is interesting and could be a lot of fun with a well matched group, or with very patient adults among children. Of course, if you are like many people, you probably don’t remember much about polygons (beyond that octagon you accidentally forgot to stop at this morning) and likely wouldn’t know a parallelogram from a decagon if it bit you in the rhombus. (Editor’s note: Yes. I AM sorry I had our resident mathlete review this game. I’ll try to better next time. – Stephen ) Well, lucky for you, Three Sticks includes basic descriptions and pictures of these shapes (in their most ideal forms) to help guide you to geometric maximization. 

Three Sticks is currently on Indegogo – check it out here!

Need more math games? Check out our math-related games!

Looking for more educational games?  Check out our list here.

 

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Little Worlds Interactive

Reviewed on Mac, available on PC

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 9.07.21 PM

 

Overall Review

The Counting Kingdom is a PC & Mac learning game that is available on Steam. It is designed to help teach children math in a fun and engaging way. Now now… I know what you are saying. Yes, there are many games that promise to teach your children while being fun, but this one is different. Why? Because it actually lives up to its promise. It is so enjoyable that your children won’t even realize that they are learning.

 

When you start the experience seems very dry, but the fun ramps up quickly. Players control a young wizard who must destroy waves of invading monsters by defeating them with spell cards. Each monster has a number on it. The player must click on adjacent monsters to make their total equal one of the available spell cards that you have at your disposal. Successfully “casting” a spell removes those monsters from the board. If a player fails to do so, monsters will continue to creep turn by turn across the grid towards your castle walls. This all sounds like it would be incredibly stressful, but the monsters move one space at a time. This helps reduce the panic that sometimes set in with other games.

The game itself would not be very engaging if all it entailed was adding two and two to make four. Fortunately, Little Worlds Interactive planned for this and created a system that would avoid this pitfall. The Counting Kingdom forces players to perform multiple calculations each turn to make sure that the numbers they are reaching is able to defeat the most monsters possible. Failure to do so can leave you overwhelmed.

As levels progress players are given potions that they can use to change the monsters’ numbers, freeze them, and even move them around on the grid. These are literal game changers that will help crafty players clear huge swaths of enemies OR help them dig out of a costly mistake.

 

Everything about The Counting Kingdom is elegantly designed. Its goal is obviously to help teach math and it does that better than any program I have ever seen. It presents challenging problems without them being intimidating. Even players who aren’t terribly good at math can take comfort in knowing that they can take their time. The game even has an assist feature that will help show the work if the player makes too many mistakes.

 

Family Gaming Assessment

This is easily the most adorable game I have ever laid eyes on. Every single monster design is oozing with personality. If the Little Worlds Interactive were to start selling plushies of these critters I would be hard pressed not to buy them. All of them.

 

There is nothing content wise that should give parents even the slightest pause here.

 

Playability

The Counting Kingdom is does not require any kind of reading, but in order to succeed players will need to recognize all of their numbers and be able to do both single and double digit addition. The good news is that even if a player struggles with the math they will get plenty of opportunities to learn!

 

Conclusion

This is a must own for anyone who has children who are learning addition, or need some reinforcement. The strategy elements will keep them hooked and the learning will happen without them even knowing. Do it folks. Purchase this game. Trust me! (You might even find yourself playing it too!)

 

 

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Math 4 Love 2-4 Players Ages 10+ 15+ Minutes (Highly dependent on skill) COMPETITIVE/KICKSTARTER

Racing into a growing spiral, faster and faster as the magnitude increases monotonically. Decahedrons, your only ally to your nigh indivisible goal, the Prime goal, one-hundred-and-one.

Prime Climb is a game of decision making and strategy that has you competing with your opponents to get your pawns to the safety of the board’s final number. As if it were the progeny of Sorry! and Chutes and Ladders, Prime Climb employs both the sequential numeric board, a single occupant mechanic (where you might be compelled to say “Sorry!”) and a “Home base”-esque aspect for the space labeled 101. Prime Climb utilizes all of the simplicity of these classic games, but it offers far more depth!

The first main difference is the dice, Prime Climb shirks the standard six-sided be-pipped cubes we are all so familiar with in exchange for two ten-sided dice. These dice are used to move around the board and can be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided against the number a pawn currently occupies. Since each die is counted singly and can apply to either of your two pawns, turns can take some time as children mathematically plot the best next move. (Make sure to be patient!)

Doubles also provide a twist, when two identical numbers are rolled, players have four copies of that number to use on their turn! Roll two 9’s, you can take one pawn to 81 from 0, and the other to 18, and so on. The single occupier rule also applies to your own pawns, so it’s worth remembering especially in this case.

The biggest difference is the board, it uses six different space colors (seven if you count black at the 0, or starting space). Grey, orange, green, blue, purple, and red adorn a black board arranged in an Archimedean Spiral, however if you were looking for a Candy Land-esque repetition you are in for a surprise!

Prime Climb uses these colors to represent the first of the early primes. Orange represents 2 and all factors of 2 that follow have an orange segment in their space. So, four would be split with two (2×2) orange halves. Three is green, so the six space (3×2) is half-orange, half-green, and so on! Red spaces are reserved for primes, and as numbers increase to have higher magnitude prime factors, those numbers printed in the red space of the factor. Primes have the added bonus of allowing you to draw a card that adds some additional effect to your turn (or a future turn).

That’s right, Prime Climb uses color to represent prime factorization! This innovative method of teaching children how to multiply and divide allows even young minds to engage in learning via pattern recognition.

To test out the idea that this could work with a younger child, I played with my four-year-old daughter, who loves patterns and can only add and subtract numbers up to 10. After studying the board and explaining to her how it worked, she invented her own basic game — she decided to determine the factors of the numbers in her fortune cookie (You know, those 6 lucky numbers that are printed under the Chinese word for Shoe).

She was able to follow the spiral, and identify all of the factors of each of the numbers (though I’ll admit that the first three were 7,19 and 43 so that did make it easier)! When we played the game we had to assist her with determining where she should move, since the decision making process with two pawns is far harder than you’d expect once you’ve made it to the larger numbers! But we were able to show her where she could move by teaching her to look for the colors!

As an example, let’s say you were on 6, it has factors of 2 (orange) and 3 (green), and you rolled a 7 (purple). To determine where 7 would take you if you multiplied, you just need to find the first space that has three segments in orange, green & purple which is 42, the product of 6 x 7!

It takes patience to play it to a younger audience, but it is definitely a possibility to help introduce the artistry of mathematics to a child before they learn it as rote memorization and “plug and chug” problem solving.

All-in-all Prime Climb is a fantastic family game for the mathematically inclined and for those who like fun. I was lucky enough to get a print-and-play review copy to check out while it runs on Kickstarter, and you could too! The print and play runs $15 and comes with a matching multiplication table and hundreds chart, for the full game experience you can back at the $35 level and get those same printable files!

Prime Climb is fully funded and on their way to some great stretch goals! Check them out before the campaign ends June 6th!

Looking for more games and math? Check out more articles here!

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Robot Turtles: A Game for Little Programmers

By: Jennifer Duetzmann

1-4 players (plus one adult)

Ages 3-8

Thinkfun (Dan Shapiro)

$25.00

Robot Turtles is a family board game created to teach kids computer programming.  It is simplistic and super fun.  The goal is for kids to is to place directional cards on a board to get their turtle to a matching colored jewel. It starts out easy, but as your child learns, you can add obstacles to make it more complex.   The children get to be the programmers and take control by playing out cards.  The grown-ups act as the computer, following commands and making all sorts of goofy noises as they play. The key is that the computer has to follow the commands exactly as entered by the kids. For example, turning left and moving forward twice is different than going forward twice and turning left. It is a sneaky way to instill in children the importance of the order of operations in programming.

You might have heard about this game in the news.  Maybe you’ve seen someone who has it.  Maybe you’ve seen it reviewed on a website. But, you’ve looked everywhere for it. It appears it was only released on Kickstarter and there might be a few copies left online. But it’s crazy expensive. Guess you will never have a chance to get it for your family, right?

Guess again.  Here is some wonderful news direct from Dan Shapiro (the game’s creator):

Thinkfun, one of the top publishers of kids educational games, is releasing a shiny new version of Robot Turtles this summer. And for anyone who preorders, they’ll include a really cool expansion pack.

Check out the link here:

http://www.thinkfun.com/robotturtles/

We really enjoyed playing as a family.  The biggest draw has been the scaling difficulty. It lets my sons play together despite their vastly different abilities. My 4 year old loved the basic game, and was super excited to have a robotic turtle with lasers.  My 8 year old liked coming up with 3 card at a time moves in advance, and my 20 something year old brother-in-law liked writing his entire program up front (he was even able to experiment with function commands) .  The game uses simple concepts to sneakily teach computer programming concepts and kids enjoy it.  From an educational standpoint, it doesn’t get much better.

We definitely think it’s worth preordering a copy for your family.

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By: Samantha Oestreicher, guest writer

Editor’s note: Samantha is a college math teacher who also writes a blog entitled, “Social Mathematics.” She offered to share some of her expertise with us here at Engaged Family Gaming and we couldn’t pass it up! Read on for some excellent examples of board games that teach math concepts without being all “teachy” about it!

There is a lot of pressure from the media and from peers to believe that math is painful. Sometimes adults try to dress up mathematics to make it look like“a game”. As a gamer, I have been really disappointed in these dressed up math practice games because they miss the point of what a game really is. Instead, they are loosely veiled attempts to manipulate kids to use math in a “fun” way.

All is not lost though, great games do exist that use mathematical thinking and math skills. The following is a list of fun games that can inspire mathematical thinking. I have compiled a list of seven wonderful board games for gaming families which can be enjoyed by parent and child alike which also include mathematical thinking.

  1. Set 5+ (grouping/sorting)

Set is an amazing card game! This is a game that your 6-year-old will be better at than you are. I’m not kidding; kids totally rock this game. This is a matching game that can be played solo or with any sized group. The rules are relatively simple. The cards each have a certain number of shapes on them of a particular color and pattern. A set is three cards which all have the same type of an attribute or miss-match an attribute. Perhaps a set is three cards all have ovals with a striped pattern on them but each card has a different number of shapes (1, 2, and 3) and different colored (purple, green and red). Pro tip: Sometimes there isn’t a set available in the cards on the table. When I play set with undergraduate math majors I ask them to prove to me why there isn’t a set. Challenging older kids to explain why is excellent mathematical practice! This game fits in your purse or stroller and is perfect for a quick distraction and only requires a small table (or floor) of space.

  1. Rummikub 7+ (Numerals/grouping/relationships)

Rummikub is a 2-4 player classic game with lots of tiles to play with and sort. While Rummikub is also about color/number matching, it is more advanced than Set because you can re-organize the board. The matching rules are similar to Set, but now all the collections of tiles stay out on the table and you can steal from already created collections to make a new one. Worst comes to worst, the tiles are fun to play with and you can build things with them! This is a great game to play at home or at the end of the day on a vacation.

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  1. Connect 4 7+ (planning/pattern recognition/Loud pieces!)
Price: $6.89
Was: $12.99

Every family needs a noisy, clattering, pieces-get-everywhere kind of a game. Connect 4 is a childhood classic that supports geometric thinking, planning and pattern recognition. It is a two player game and great for two children to play together. Basically, Connect 4 is an advanced version of tic-tac-toe. I do not recommend taking this game out of your home as you will surely lose pieces. This is a great game to entertain the kids while you are finishing dinner or something.

  1. 20 Express 8+ (consecutive numbering/planning)
Price: Out of stock

This game is great for parents to play with your kids! It’s a number game which focuses on consecutive ordering. The scoring may take parental involvement as it is a little weird at first sight. However, the cool part about this game is that everyone tries to organize the same numbers at the test cyp same time. So you, as a parent, can compare answers with the other players. “Oh, that was a good choice, I didn’t think to do it that way!” The only negative to 20 Express is that it obviously uses math and that may turn off some kids. This game is good for traveling as it doesn’t require a central table and any number of people can play at once. Each player just needs a pen and something to write on.

  1. Ticket To Ride 8+ (counting/planning)
Price: $35.99
Was: $49.99

This game is really fun! It is a time commitment (maybe an hour once everyone knows the rules) and requires a big table. There are lots of little train pieces that you get to place on the board when you build railroad tracks between cities on the map. I don’t recommend this game if you have a cat or child who likes to jump on the table and mess up the board.

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This 2-5 player game requires business optimization similar to operations research. There is no money, but you have to collect cards which include restrictions on where you are allowed to build. This game requires a longer attention, but is full of bright colors and will definitely be just as fun for the parents as the children!

  1. Rush Hour 8+

Rush Hour is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap.

  1. Sumoku 9+ (addition/multiplication)
Price: $16.00

Sumoku is a math-centric game for 1-8 players. Think of it as Scrabble/Bananagrams for numbers. You add to the existing tile layout based on a specific mathematical goal. For example, every row must add to a multiple of 3. This is a great game to support a young mathematical thinker because along with practicing basic computational skills, the player is also planning and matching. Unlike Bananagrams, there is no element of speed, so young players may take as long as necessary to check their math before they place their tiles. Like 20 Express, this game obviously uses mathematics. But, I believe Sumoku is interesting and dynamic enough to provide entertainment to the whole family. This game is easy to transport and requires a central table.

My recommendation is that, if you only buy one of these games, get Set. Then I would pick up Ticket to Ride. After that, your choices should depend on you and your children’s interests. And remember that your involvement always improves the quality of the game. Mathematical thinking requires self-reflection and the ability to collaborate. Challenge your kids to explain why they made a particular choice or ask them to help you with your move.

Happy Gaming!

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By: Kelly Allard

Way back when I was young and sans kids, my friends and I would stay up until the wee hours of the night doing nothing but table-top gaming.  Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire the Masquerade… basically whatever we could get our hands on that went well with a 10-pack of tacos from Taco Bell and 64oz of Mountain Dew.

Now that we’re parents, our nigh-continuous gaming has mellowed to a semi-monthly laid-back game of Pathfinder that ends shortly after our children’s bed time.  Early on, we thought we could let the kids have a movie and we’d play while they were off relaxing in their own world.  We were quite mistaken!

While normally Simba’s harrowing tale of triumph in the face of danger would hold kids enthralled for its entire action-packed 90 minute run, it is apparently FAR less interesting than what the grown-ups are doing.  To save on frustration, we let our little ones join our table.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited for the day that my daughter gets the idea of playing a character in more than the “put on a costume and preface my name with princess” kind of way that pre-schoolers have.  However, we aren’t there yet.  We needed a way to make the game fun for her while letting us still play the game.

So, as any table-topping gamer parent knows, there are two incredibly interesting things about gaming for kids (and cats): dice and minis!  We would let her roll for us.  At first we’d call out the numbers, but as time went on, she’d tell US what she rolled.   It was a great way to help her recognize numbers to 20.  Also, as time went on, we could tell her which dice to roll instead of giving her a specific die.

Giving them their real names (in addition to what we call them) is helping her understanding and relation of 3 dimensional objects.  Having one person call it a tetrahedron, while someone else calls it a 4-sider helps her relate the shapes to their make-up.  You can also point out the shapes that make up the flat side, like the pentagons on a dodecahedron (d12).
Now, where things get dicey is modifiers.  My daughter LOVES to be right and isn’t really a fan of being corrected.
Here is an excerpt from a recent gaming session:
Her – “19!”
Me – “Ok, That’s a 24 for me!”

Her – “It’s a 19.”
Me – “Yes, that is a 19, but then I get to add this 5 to it, and it makes it 24.”
Her – “This ‘dice’ says 1 next to 9, that’s 19 not 24, mommy.”

To aid in her understanding of the additive nature of our rolls, we now have a small white board to write the result AND the modifier on.  So, 19 + 5 = 24, for this specific roll.  This gives her an opportunity to see how numbers operate together in simple addition.  Also, it gives her a familiarity with addition notation and an early recognition of symbols associated with it.
Another fun thing to let your little “knowledge sponge” do is count movement squares.  Explain that every square is 5 feet and tell them how many to go – as they count by 1s, you count by 5s.  This will start to give them a basis for “skip counting” and an early foundation for multiplication.  They can move the mini to the final destination but they have to count the path (save double diagonals for a different day, once they’ve got general movement down) and see if it takes more than the number the character CAN move to get to the end.
This teaches them varying quantities and allows them the ability to find their own ways to the answer.  Also, it teaches the basics of the concepts of more than (greater than) and less than.  If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could even write their movement total on a white board, comparing the movement total to the character’s allowed movement (e.g. 20 < 30), laying the groundwork for eventually solidifying their understanding of the concept.

The thing to keep in mind is that whenever you add a child to your game, no matter the age, it is going to take longer.  The amount of time it takes to do something simple seems to be inversely proportional to their age (provided that they are over 6 months or so.)  Or to put it in simple terms: For n>0.5, t=1/n.  Just be patient with them, answer their questions and teach them what’s happening.  Table-top roleplaying games have some amazingly simple math and fantastic gaming concepts.

The math learning is great, but you will also be helping your child learn the skills of playing an open-ended game, with variable results. They will also become familiar with turn-based strategy, roleplaying and working as a team in a (mostly) cooperative environment.

 

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