November 05, 2021 5 min read
Games are an excellent way of learning and reinforcing social and academic skills, and maths skills integrated into many board games making them a great way for children to learn and practice maths.
Many games are built around a 'roll and move' mechanic, making them perfect for counting practice in early years. Check out Orchard Toys for some lovely educational games, including the perennial favourite Bus Stop.
Colour recognition and pattern matching are also integrated into many games - we'd recommend taking a look at My First Castle Panic from Fireside Games as a great mix of captivating gameplay and seamless learning.
Below are our top picks for fun games to help children at different ages and stages to develop their maths skills:
Prime Climb, published by ThinkFun in Europe is our overall top maths game. It is a game with pure maths at its core, but still succeeds in delivering a thrilling competitive game.
Players move two pawns along a number spiral, with the first to land both on exactly 101 taking the win. Instead of counting forward with dice throws, however, players throw two 10-sided dice and add, subtract, multiply or divide by the number on which they are sitting, moving to the resulting number.
The board is colour coded to denote factors to help younger mathematicians with their sums. Prime numbers are coloured red. End on a prime number and you can take a card to either help yourself or hinder and opponent. Some have to be played immediately and some can be saved to be played later, adding a strategic element.
Just a heads up - I have made my child cry playing this game: There is definitely a 'take that' element to play (you can land on your opponent to bump them back to zero), but gameplay is so fluid that it is anybody's game right to the end so children soon learn a setback is not the end!
Recommended age is 10 years and up, or eight and up with adult help, which is about right. An able seven or even six year-old could definitely get something out of the game with some help but would be unlikely to think through all the multitudinous maths opportunities with every turn! The Steam Rocket seven year-old enjoys Prime Climb, mainly adding and multiplying lower numbers and has gradually added in more 'moves' (subtracting to reach a prime or trying some bigger multiples such as 33x3, 25x4).
If you are looking for adults or children 10+, this would be our one choice for an all round fun game, improbably achieved through pure mathematics!
Thematically and visually, Outnumbered: Improbable Heroes is immediately appealing. The fun gameplay, which involves plenty of arithmetic practice is never heavy, and is the perfect way to help your reluctant mathematician become a numbers whizz.
Outnumbered is a cooperative maths strategy game for 1-6 players. Waves of oncoming minions are advancing, each one showing a number on it. On each player's turn, they will roll 3 dice, then use math operations and their Hero Power to create the values shown on the minions, defeating them. As minions continue to spawn and advance down the board, players need their wits about them to halt the advance before it's too late!
Kingdomino from Blue Orange won 2017 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year award, and it's not hard to see why. Uncomplicated does not mean unenjoyable, and the quick-to-learn gameplay in which each player strategically creates a 5x5 grid of dominos to maximise the value of their kingdom is always bringing you back for one more game.
And why do we love Kingdomino most? Because as well as being an absolutely brilliant game, it is very good practice for times tables and well as single/double digit addition!
Secret Code 13+4. The maths is more front and centre than Kingdomino, and all in service of an engaging game. Players race to deactivate a series of 'light barriers'. Each has a code number (different every game) and you have to combine the numbers on six dice to crack the code. The first player to cross all 10 barriers and each the centre of the board is the winner.
Addition or subtraction, multiplication or division are all allowed, with products up to 20, making it the perfect tool for practical practice of mental arithmetic in an enjoyable way.
Sleeping Queens is a fantastic card game for the whole family, and reinforces mathematical learning.
We would always recommend Sleeping Queens as the perfect example of maths practice seamlessly integrated into a fun family game. The endearing gameplay reinforces learning of number bonds to 10, and addition in multiples of 5.
A notable mention also to Zeus on the Loose, another classic from Gamewright, which upscales the addition to cover up to 100 (adding numbers up to ten until a total of 100 is reached), without compromising on gameplay.
Crew in a Stew is our go to for getting in some intensive - and stress-free - times tables practice.
Be the first to assemble a pirate crew in this easy to understandgame. Each turn starts with a roll of two 12-sided dice, with the action taken depending on the product of the two.
We love the illustrations in this engaging card game. Crew in a Stew offers lots of times tables practice without it seeming like work.
Tiny Polka Dotis a playful way for children ages 3 – 8 and up to fall in love with numbers.
With eye-catching, colourful cards and 16 easy-to-learn games, Tiny Polka Dot is built to grow with your child, teaching critical skills in counting, arithmetic, and logic along the way.
It is a versatile and appealing set, and our top pick for helping young children up to 8 years work confidently with numbers in a playful way.
Pizza Fraction Fun is a great game for young children to learn a range of fraction-related skills: Identify fractions; match fraction equivalents; add and subtract fractions and more. Learning fractions in the abstract can be a big challenge for kids so it's definitely a good investment to look at a game to make the concept abstract, and Pizza Fraction Fun fulfils this brief in an appealing and easily visually understandable manner.
The pizza slices can also be used for free play, allowing kids to explore the relationship between fractions in their own way.
Mobi (8 years+) and Mobi Kids (3 years+) offer intensive but fun maths practice. In the original Mobi, players race to use their tiles to correctly create an arithmetic grid using a mixture of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Mobi Kids simplifies the rules and limits the tiles to adding and subtracting to make the game perfect to complement early years and Key Stage 1 education.
Both games come with rules for variations to adapt the game depending on the ability of the child. With an cute whale storage bad and nicely weighted tiles, Mobi is a well-designed game to get kids practicing mathematics, and a compact option to take with you and play anywhere.
The scoring mechanisms used in many games also make them particularly suited to maths learning for children. While the maths takes a little more of a back seat, this topic would not be complete without a mention of some of the amazing games, which are addictively playable and also incidentally require players to add their score, involving some more complex double digit addition. Our top recommendations are: