Journey through story local games to three regions of Africa in South of the Sahara by MathMinds Games. This is a cross-curricular game that weaves Math, Literacy, and Social Studies into the fabric of the game. The design for South of the Sahara has applications with students in a classroom, homeschooling, or families. There are three games within South of the Sahara with additional variants for each game. The games are for players ages seven and up. All the games combined supports two to eight players, and games are 10- 30 minutes. Gamplay is taught in a storybooks format. Chapter one and two teach a game play variants each, increasing in difficulty. The second chapter also introduces the math connection, while chapter three delves deeper into the math, and add some history or social studies connections too.


Achi is a two player game that originated in Ghana. The game storybook connects the game to tic-tac-toe. Connections are made in the storybook to a turtle shell and the magic square originating in China.

Game Components

  • Double sided board
    • one side is a 9 dot grid
    • other side lines shift and there are numbers on all the spots
  • 4 red triangles
  • 4 blue squares


Chapter1: Players take turns placing their pieces with the objective to get three in a row. The game is basically tic-tac-toe, but there is one major difference, the game cannot end in a draw. Players only have 4 pieces each, so there is always a vacant space. If there is not three in a row, players then slide one piece on each move until there is a winner.

Chapter 2: On the game board side with numbers, there are still nine spaces numbered one to nine. The objective this time is to have three of your numbers add to 15. Once all pieces are on the board players may use their turn to slide a piece to try and reach the 15 total with three of their pieces.


Gulugufe connects a discovery of butterflies in Mozambique and links it to pancakes to explain the mathematical concept of negation.

Game Components

  • Double sided game board, one side is for two player the reverse if for four player
  • Wooden cylinders with 1/-1 on each flat face
    • 9 each of four different colors ( Yellow, Green, Blue, Red)


Chapter1: This game is playable with two or four players by using the game board side with the side that matches the number of player Players are trying to remove the caterpillars of their opponents (represented by wooden cylinders). To remove a caterpillar you “crawl over” a piece that is next to yours. The piece must be in s straight line and have a vacant space on the opposite side. Players can knock off as many pieces as possible on their turn, and must make a move even if it leaves their piece in a vulnerable position.

Chapter 2: Opposite Sides of the Branch incorporates the idea of negative and positive numbers . Negative represents the caterpillar bring under the branch and positive 1 represents being on top of the branch and -1 under the branch. Players can only know off a caterpillar that is on the same side of the branch as they are. Players can also take their turn to flip over one of there pieces or one of their opponents pieces.


Fanorona takes place on the island of Madagascar and incorporates the national animal; the lemur. In this game the lemurs are pushing or tripping their opponents. The last player with a piece on the board wins.


  • Two sets of 22 hexagonal wooden pieces with the numbered 1-22, one yellow set and one purple set
  • Double sided board (square grid and rectangular grid)


Chapter One: Falling Lemurs, uses the blank side of the game pieces General game play takes on the idea that lemurs are unstable when they stand on two feet. So, players “push” or “trip” their opponents to remove them from the board. To push move forward into an empty space in front of your opponent. All opposing pieces in a straight line are removed from the board. This represents the lemurs falling over. The falling lemurs line stops when there is a space or the other players token in the way.

To trip, players can envision a tail sweep. To execute this move in the game, players begin directly in front of their opponent’s piece, and move backwards on space. Just like with the push any opposing pieces in a straight line are removed.

Chapter 2: Lemur Ages adds in the numbers on the game tokens. To knock over Lemurs the player must decide what group of lemurs they are knocking over. Players need to decide if they want to make younger, older or same age fall over compared to their piece. This gameplay decision incorporates the mathematical concept of greater than, less than, and equal to.

Family Game Assessment

South of the Sahara is a cute series of mini games, and a good fit for families with early elementary children. The games are quick and easy to learn. Most are two player and are simple enough that two children can play independently together. When playing some of these games, it surprised me how engaging the gameplay was. While simple there was more strategy than I first anticipated.

Educational Assessment

In an early elementary classroom or homeschool setting, specifically in first and second grade, these games are a great way to reinforce mathematical skills as well as turn taking and good sportsmanship. Per the MathMinds website, the game stories are a 3rd grade reading level and are available in English and Spanish. The Achi skills of the magic square and adding to 15 hits multiple stands of the Operations and Algebraic Thinking (OA) in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Negation, introduced in Gulugufe, does not typically get introduced formally until the upper elementary grade. However it is easily understandable by primary students especially with the below the branch visual. The skills of greater than, less than, equal introduced in Fanorona align with first grade skills (CCSS NBT B3).

These games are well suited for small group at a teacher station to learn and then to be available as center. The stories engaging children and remain simple enough for whole or small group read alouds. The cross curricular nature of South of the Sahara optimizes the instructional time in already packed school schedule.

Final Thoughts

The game play and math skills infused in South of the Sahara make it a useful tool in both a home and school environment. The gameplay is engaging that it can be played multi age. For gamification of some primary math skills infused with story and multicultural learning, this is cute and entertaining.

FCC Disclosure: A copy of South of the Sahara was provided for review.

By Linda Wrobel

Managing Editor: Board Games Mother, Educator, and Board Game Editor.

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