Ideas for Using Board Games to Teach Math

Stacy Zeiger
Girl playing math game

Math lessons taught through play often create the most effective exercises for children. Math is no longer just a theory, but becomes a practical application that children want to utilize. Multiple board games are designed to help children develop their math skills but with a little creativity you can develop a brand new game by printing out a blank game board, or transform your child's favorite game into a math lesson. For help with downloading the blank game board, check out these tips.

General Math Concepts

Create a Basic Board Game

Create a basic board game to cover a wealth of math concepts. On a piece of poster board, design the path for the board game and draw in the game squares. On each square write a math problem or designate specific squares to be used for answering questions. Have children roll the die and move the specified number of spaces. If they answer the question on that space correctly, they stay there. If they answer it incorrectly, they go back that number of spaces. You can use virtually any type of math question with this board game. The first child to reach the finish line wins.

Trivial Pursuit

Use Trivial Pursuit as a review game at the beginning or end of the school year. Scrap the traditional question cards and categories. Label each color with a different math concept and create a list of problems for each concept. Play the game as you normally would with the new categories and questions. Players will answer questions to earn pie pieces. The first player to collect all of the pie pieces and answer a final question wins the game.

Addition and Subtraction

Chutes and Ladders

In the game of Chutes and Ladders, players start at 1 and attempt to reach 100, using ladders to get ahead and encountering chutes that can set them back. Turn Chutes and Ladders into a math game by adding addition and subtraction problems to the ladders and chutes. Write simple addition and subtraction problems on index cards. If a player lands on a ladder, they must draw a card and solve a problem correctly to move up the ladder. If they land on a chute, they must also draw a card and solve a problem correctly to avoid going down the chute.

Build a Tower

Use Lego, pennies, wooden blocks, popsicle sticks or any basic building material you can find. Have players roll a pair of dice and add the two numbers. The player gets that number in building materials if the dice are added correctly and uses them to build a tower. Go through 10 or 15 rounds. The player with the tallest or most creative tower at the end wins. Instead of rolling dice, you may create a general math board and include a problem on each square.

Multiplication

Multiplication Race

Create a game board on a large piece of poster board or cardboard that contains four separate columns with eleven rows each. Decide on a type of multiplication (such as multiplying by 2s) . Then, starting with zero and ending with 10, write a multiplication problem in each row (2x0, 2x1, 2x2, etc.). Each column should contain the same problems. Have four students line up at the bottom of the columns. Start a stopwatch and have students race to see who can correctly solve all of the problems first. Write down each player's finish time, then go back and check the answers. The player to solve all of the problems correctly in the shortest amount of time wins.

Move Up with Multiples

Create rectangular boards with 20 blank squares in a straight line. Assign each player a different number (1 through 10). Roll a pair of dice. If the product of the numbers on the dice is a multiple of a player's number, that player moves up a space. The first player to reach the 20th square on his board wins the game.

Fractions

Dice Bingo

Create blank five by five grids and have students fill each square with a possible fraction represented by two dice. Instead of using number balls or chips like a traditional game of Bingo, roll a pair of dice. The lowest number in the roll represents the numerator and the biggest number represents the denominator. Students with that fraction on their grids cross it off. Continue rolling the dice until a student gets five fractions crossed off in a row.

Decorate a Cake

Similar to Bingo, cut white circles from cardstock and draw lines on them to divide them into eight different triangles. Write a different fraction on each triangle. Create index cards with percentages or decimals to represent the fractions on the triangles. Call out the numbers from the cards and have children see if a fraction on their circle card matches the number called out. If it does, they decorate that triangle like a slice of cake. The first student to completely decorate the cake wins.

Geometry

Hedbanz

In the game Hedbanz, players wear a headband with an image on it and must attempt to determine what image is on their heads by asking yes or no questions. Turn it into a geometry game by swapping the game's pictures with index cards containing shapes and angles. Have children ask the questions to determine what shape or angle is on their forehead. You can create your own headbands using construction paper strips instead of buying the game.

Statistics and Probability

Trouble

Instead of playing the typical game of Trouble, use the Trouble game board for a lesson in statistics and probability. Have players take turns popping the dice in the middle of the board and writing down the numbers that pop up. After popping the dice 10 to 20 times each, ask them to determine which numbers are most likely and least likely to appear.

Creativity Is Key

Nearly all games and tasks have some learning aspect that can be added to them for kids. Board game ideas for math are relatively simple to implement with a little forethought and planning. Depending on the age of the child, different games can teach different concepts and skills. When given the opportunity all children love to learn, especially when learning is made to be fun!

Ideas for Using Board Games to Teach Math