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Engaging high school students in mathematics is one hell of a task. Although rewarding, the process is time-consuming and difficult. Here come math board games, a fun and clever way to make learning not only fun but also foster the seed of a thorough understanding of mathematical concepts. +
In this article, we will examine the uncontested demand for math board games amongst high school students, the reason being that math board games have the potential to turn this otherwise intimidating subject of mathematics into a fantastically thrilling journey.
We shall explore a list of carefully handpicked math board games, each with its own way of being played using different strategies that boost not only mathematical reasoning but also critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities.
Fun math-based board games!
Here is a list of 8 mathematical board games that high school students can leverage to boost their mathematical concepts. These games can be played within classroom premises and have a play time ranging between 15 – 60 minutes. Read on to know more!
1. Prime Climb
Objective: Prime Climb is one of the interesting math-themed games that require each player to move two of their pawns to the center of the board, designated as 101. To reach 101, players must perform various mathematical operations governed by two dice and prime cards.
- Prime Climb is a two to four-player board game. Each player gets two pawns of their chosen color.
- Initially, each player has to place their respective pawns at the starting, labeled as ‘0’ on the board.
- A deck of cards, called ‘prime cards’ is shuffled and kept facing down.
The game has four stages: Roll, Move, Bump, and Draw.
- Roll: The players take turns, and roll two dice simultaneously. Based on the two numbers that show up, they have to move their pawns.
- Move: Let’s say Player A has 3 and 4 showing up on his dice. He can begin by moving each of his pawns at tiles labeled 3 and 4. Or, he can move one of his pawns to tile 3, and then, either choose to add, subtract, multiply, or divide 3 by 4 in order to complete two moves.
- Bump: Let’s say Player A moves his first pawn to tile 3 and for his second move, multiplies 4 with 3, resulting in 12, thereby moving the same pawn onto 12.
Now, if Player B rolls the dice and ends up getting the numbers 2, and 6, he can aim to ‘bump’ Player A by moving his first pawn to tile 2 and then multiplying it with 6, which gives him 12.
In short, if two players land up on the same tile, the player landing second can bump the player already occupying the tile and send him back to tile ‘0’.
- Draw: On the board, there are several tiles marked in red. These are tiles representing prime numbers. If any player lands on these red tiles, he gets to draw a card from the deck facing downwards and has to do as said on the card.
- The player who manages to race both of his pawns to the center of the board on tile 101 wins the game.
- Players must strategically decide their gameplay and move both of their pawns to the center.
- This game is an engaging way to help students move back to the basics of arithmetic without making them feel bored.
Objective: Swish is an interesting geometry-based math game where the player who stacks the most number of similar cards wins.
- Swish is a multiplayer math-based card game.
- The dealer shuffles the deck of transparent pattern-based cards and deals 16 of them.
- The rest of the deck needs to be kept aside.
How to play Swish?
- Once the dealer deals the cards, all the players begin to mentally think of cards they can stack up in pairs.
- The player who has found out a pair that can be stacked, yells ‘Swish’ and takes his turn.
- Stacking two cards, one on top of the other is governed by flip or rotate.
- Players need to stack the cards such that a ball fits into a hoop of the same color.
- Initially, players can begin with stacking a pair of cards, and then proceed with stacking multiple cards.
- Players who stack the most number of cards win.
- During the course of the game, players cannot touch any cards and must mentally figure out how they can stack up the cards.
- Swish encourages players to straighten their spatial IQ
- It also encourages students to enhance their pattern recognition ability.
3. Equate board game
Objective: Equate is similar to the popular game Scrabble, except that you need to form valid math equations instead of words.
- Equate is a multiplayer game that can also be played within teams.
- Each player or team is allotted a set of tiles that consist of digits 1-9 and basic arithmetic operations.
How to play Equate?
- The aim of the game is to form as many valid math equations using the given tiles.
- Players or teams must begin each equation with a number, followed by a set of operations.
- They can also use the parentheses to group the numbers for complex operations.
- Equations that are more complex and land up on special tiles on the board garner the most points.
- Opponents are allowed to challenge each other on the basis of the correctness of the equation. If a player or a team forms an incorrect equation, the point(s) is/are awarded to the opponent that spots the mistake.
- Players can also include tiles having more complex operations such as square root and exponent.
- Winners can be decided based on a preset time or a preset point, wherein the player having maximum points until the preset time is reached wins or the player who reaches the preset points first, wins.
- Players take a step back to revise their algebraic and arithmetic concepts in this strategic yet fun math board game.
- They also invoke their critical thinking and reasoning ability.
4. 24 game
Objective: Players must form mathematical equations using the four given numbers on a card whose result is always equal to 24.
- 24 is a single-player or multi-player game.
- The dealer shuffles the deck of cards and deals one card to each team.
- The dots on the card indicate the difficulty level with one dot signifying easy and three dots signifying hard.
How to play 24?
- Players have to form equations using arithmetic operations resulting in 24 as the answer.
- Based on the dots on the cards, the complexity may increase.
- Players have to use either addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division to form the equations. They can use parentheses to further apply the concept of BODMAS and form equations.
- Players can time their moves or decide on a preset point, and the player who manages to secure those many points first wins.
- 24 allows players to brush their BODMAS concept.
- Players also work on their mental math ability.
Objective: Just like critical thinking questions stimulate learners to think and answer, in this game too, players must mentally perform mathematical operations and yell out the answer. The dealer says ‘Prove it’ and the player who yelled the answer must prove how he derived it, using the cards displayed.
- Prove it is a multiplayer math card game suitable for 2 – 6 players.
- The dealer shuffles the deck of number cards and deals 9 cards, placing them 3×3.
How to play Proof?
- Once the cards are displayed on the table facing up, the players gather around.
- Each player has to mentally think of a mathematical equation using at least 3 of the cards on display.
- The player can use arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The player can also use the square root function.
- Upon thinking of a valid mathematical equation, the player must yell the answer.
- The dealer says ‘prove it’ and the player must explain how he derived the answer.
- The answer to the equation need not be in the grid, but all the other numbers that the player uses must be present within the grid.
- Every time a player proves a mathematical equation correctly, he keeps all the number cards he used.
- The dealer then replaces the taken cards with new cards from the deck.
- The player having the most number of cards at the end of the game is the winner.
- Proof! Allows for the cultivation of critical thinking and mathematical reasoning.
Objective: The aim of the game is to observe the construction, and decode the rule applied by the master.
- Out of all the players, elect one player to be the master.
- The master must select any rule or pattern and use it to make the construction/arrangements of tiny pyramids.
- The master can base his rule on various attributes such as the size, color, and orientation of the pyramids.
How to play Zendo?
- The elected master chooses a rule or pattern of his choice and makes the arrangement/construction as per the rule. Ensure that the rest of the players do not see the rule chosen.
- Once the master is done, the rest of the players have to guess and try to decode the rule applied by the master.
- The players take turns to decode the rule and can ask the master for feedback. The master can only answer yes or no.
- When the preset time has elapsed, the players have to present their construction to the master, where the master determines if any of the constructions follow the rule.
- The player who correctly guesses the rule becomes the master for the next round.
- Zendo helps students build their logical and deductive reasoning abilities.
- It helps them understand patterns and encourages them to unleash their pattern recognition and decoding abilities.
- It helps in hypothesis testing, i.e., students must form a hypothesis based on their guesses and try to be as accurate as they can.
Objective: The objective of this game is to achieve the ‘target’ which is a predetermined number by using a set of mathematical operations.
- Choose a number mutually. This number is the ‘target’ to be achieved.
- Shuffle the deck of cards well and deal 4 to 5 cards to each player.
- Place all the other cards facing down.
How to play Target?
- Distribute 4 to 5 cards to each player.
- Each player sees his cards and mentally calculates how he can achieve the target.
- Once decided, the player can place the cards in order of the equation.
- Each player takes a turn to share his solutions. The correct solutions draw a point while the wrong ones receive no point.
- Players must use all the cards a maximum of one time to get to the target.
- Players can continue playing until they reach a preset number of points or a preset number of rounds.
- The player with the highest point in the end is the winner.
- Target is a great way to help students sharpen their arithmetic skills.
- Besides, students also work to enhance their mental math ability.
Objective: The objective of playing Sudoku is to fill all the digits from 1 to 9 in a 3×3 grid within a 9×9 larger grid such that no digit is repeated within a row or a column.
- Lay out the Sudoku game board.
- Hand out the numbered tiles from 1 to 9 to all players.
How to play Sudoku?
- Players begin by placing the initial numbers on the board which act as clues. For this, they can refer to the Sudoku menu or any online version of Sudoku.
- Once this is done, they can begin by placing the numbers on the sudoku board such that:
- No number occurs more than once in the same row.
- No number occurs more than once in the same column.
- Players must fill in each cell of the 3×3 grid, and subsequently of the 9×9 grid to complete the puzzle.
- Students get to sharpen their number logic.
- Students must use deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills to solve this puzzle.
Adapting a tool that bridges the gap between studies and fun is a great way to teach high school students. One such effective tool is leveraging math board games that are not only fun but also engaging and interactive. These board games help improve arithmetic comprehension, mental math ability, critical thinking approach, spatial IQ, and decision-making ability.
In addition, introducing math board games into the high school curriculum facilitates a growth mindset, an upbeat mindset toward mathematics, and a sense of accomplishment, empowering students to become more confident and passionate learners.
An Engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor, and animal rights activist. I have more than 5 years of teaching experience and have worked closely with students with learning disorders. I have worked with special educators, counselors, and experts in dealing with common issues that students face during their academic journey.