Mathematize Your Home: Board Games



A friendly game of Monopoly  is not only fun, but can also hone foundational Math skills, money management skills, and sportsmanship.

A friendly game of Monopoly is not only fun, but can also hone foundational Math skills, money management skills, and sportsmanship.

One of the sneaky ways we use to work in some Math skills into our regular, non-formal-studying lives is play board games. The girls love board games. We started with the beginner ones like Snakes and Ladders and Candyland, to Richard Scarry games to the girls’ current favorite, Monopoly.


Aside from the thrill of rolling the dice (in actuality, pitching them on to the board and then hieing off to the floor to look for the dice after they bounce off the board), the girls got a kick out of moving their pieces around the board. At first, they moved the pieces willy-nilly until they figured out they were only meant to move the pieces the same number of times as the number of dots shown on the dice. We started by counting the dots on the dice, but they eventually learned that two dots and three dots mean that they get to move their piece forward five spaces, six dots and two dots mean eight spaces forward, and so on.

Of course, for some adults, Snakes and Ladders and Candyland are not the most enthralling games to play, and definitely not games that you would choose to spend 57 minutes 32 seconds playing. Trying to surreptitiously edge your piece forward—to which your kid will say, “Mommy! One dot and two dots are not five spaces forward!”—is obviously not a good move. The solution? Use more dice to speed up the game! With three dice, and luck on your side, you can move up to 18 spaces forward. That’s bigger number counting and addition skills right there (and a good time to discuss cheating and good sportsmanship).

Now when your kids get old enough for games like Monopoly and Life, not only do you get to practice Math skills, but you can teach them crucial money management skills as well. When we got Raine, our now-nine-year-old, a Monopoly board for Christmas last year, she was excited to play using “money.” She ended up wiping us all out on our first game, with me declaring bankruptcy midway. Breeze, who was then five years old, and I played banker instead, with Breeze counting out the $200 every time someone passed Go, and giving change and title cards when someone bought property.

The beauty of playing board games is that the Math lessons are never in-your-face-learn-this-skill obvious. As with most of the things that parents do, it’s a natural part of daily life. Best of all, it’s fun (or it should be—we’ve stopped the games when players—usually the younger ones—start having meltdowns).

So set aside the gadgets for an hour, break out the dice, and enjoy as your kids learn Math without even knowing it.

Happy math days ahead!

A version of this article is included in the There's a Math Teacher in The House newsletter, to which I have started contributing to. This newsletter is published twice a month by MATH-Inic, a system that teaches mental Math techniques that will help make Math fun, fast, and easy. The newsletter contains tips on how to promote Math in your home; techniques to speed up calculations (useful for competitions!); and fun things you can do with numbers. Sign up here to receive the free There's a Math Teacher in The House newsletter and other updates from MATH-Inic


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