Playing with Numbers and Important Ideas in Math

Compiled by Ruth Parker
Math games can be a wonderful source for developing mathematical reasoning while practicing basic facts.  In Math Games for Family Fun and Learning, Ruth Parker lists nine favorites, and they’re easy to find in stores. Repeatedly playing these games supports student learning and deepens understanding.

“Parents often ask me to recommend some good games that encourage math play at home. It’s a question I love to be asked. How math is experienced in the home has a big impact on how children do with math at school. As the ‘math auntie’ of quite a few nieces and nephews, I’m always looking for challenging and fun math games—games that engage children in mathematical reasoning and help them experience the compelling nature of a good math challenge. I’ve polled my nieces and nephews and can offer some of our favorites. Most of these games are available in toy stores for $5 to $15.”
Ruth Parker

  • Set: A card game of logic and visual perception that can be enjoyed by the whole family (ages 6 to adult). Adults, be forewarned that it can be humbling to play this game with youngsters.
  • Tangos: A game that focuses on spatial relationships and that challenges the whole family, young and old alike.
  • Mastermind: A game of logic enjoyed by both children and adults. Look for a version of Mastermind for younger children ages 6 and up.
  • Cribbage: A wonderful card game played on a pegged board that develops skill in adding series of small numbers. The game is enjoyable for children of all ages.
  • Dominoes: A game of strategy and numbers that children as young as 4 years of age can play as a number recognition game. Yet the regular game of dominoes is challenging for adults as well.
  • Mancala: A challenging African stone game of logic for adults that can be adapted to meet the needs of children ages 5 and up.
  • Equate: A game for reinforcing computation with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. I haven’t played this yet, but my nieces and nephews tell me it is challenging and fun.
  • Checkers/Chess: Great games for developing skill with logical reasoning.

We hope you find these math games as much fun as we do. Curl up with your kid(s) and enjoy playing math. Please let us know if you have other favorites to add to the list.