Ideas for Math Board Games

by Janet Mulroney Clark

Math can be fun, and board games are a good way to demonstrate this to children. Board games can be used to teach and reinforce many math concepts, including counting, sorting, patterns, number order, number sense, problem solving and the four operations. "The Washington Post" reported that a 2007 study by Carnegie Mellon University helped low-income preschoolers improve their math ability by playing board games with numbers. The children showed improvement in four areas and, when tested nine weeks later, still retained their newly-acquired skills.

Preschool Games

Young children can learn early math skills by playing games such as Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. In Candyland, children work with patterns and matching by placing their game piece on a colored square that matches the card they draw. They also learn about sequencing; if their card has one colored line, they move to the first matching space, and if they draw a card with two colored lines, they move to the second matching space. Chutes and Ladders teaches number recognition, number order and counting. It also introduces the idea that a number may be greater than or smaller than other numbers.


Sorry is intended for children age six to adult. Each player has four game pieces to place in their start circle. Children learn number recognition and counting as they draw cards that have numbers signifying how many spaces they can move their game pieces. Some cards have special directions, allowing players to move backwards or trade places with an opponent, so students learn strategy as they decide what movement would be most favorable. The object of the game is to be the first one to get all game pieces into the home circle. As children keep an eye on their own and their opponent's pieces, they learn the concepts of greater than and less than. They also work with addition to calculate how many spaces they need to move in order to get to home.


Contig is for children grades three and up. Players roll three dice and use any combination of the four operations to get a number that corresponds with a number on the game board. The player marks that number with an x. Points are awarded according to how many other marked numbers the newly-marked number is adjacent to; the numbers can be adjacent horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Students practice strategy as they plot which number would be most advantageous to mark. Contig Junior uses just two operations and is for younger students or those who need practice with addition and subtraction. Many variations of Contig can be adapted according to the needs of the learners.


Monopoly is a classic game for children age 8 and older; junior editions are available as well. Younger children practice counting as they roll dice and move their game pieces; they begin learning about the value of money and practice "less than, more than" as they choose which properties to buy. Older children learn about mortgages, calculating taxes and returns on investments. They also learn money skills such as budgeting and investing.

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