Imagine a summer break without worksheets or extra busy work to keep your kids busy. Games are an easy way to prevent the “summer slump” without bringing out “school” to make them complain. To my family, games are just a normal part of our day year-round. While my bigs are catching-up on their actual Saxon math curriculum this summer, the littles are mostly just playing games and doing some computer math fun.

Elements of math are in most games if you look for it, not just games with numerals on the little dice. Early elementary educators talk about one-to-one correspondence – that just means touching and counting an item only once. How much better to do this than with a game? Even Scrabble has math. Afterall, most games do require keeping score, right? Put the kids in charge of tracking score. Remember math includes logic and planning and patterns and shapes and matching… not just numbers.

Outsmart those silly math worksheets! Feel comfortable making gameschooling a priority in your family. It all counts!

A Little (Not-So) Friendly Skyjo Competition

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Math Games

When you go online and search for math games, you get “best math apps” or “math games for android”. Touching a real game is so much better! If games aren’t easy to get out and portable, they don’t get played. These are kid tested and mom approved. Here are some of our favorite math-dedicated games. 

Quixx

Our number one go to. Portable. Fast. They will add lots of dice each round and strategize which to mark off. I’m always up for a game of Quixx.

Skyjo

Name another game that has negative numbers. You can’t. Skyjo is portable. Fast. Easy to learn. Good for so many ages.

Prime Climb

Current fascination of the 8 year old. Add, subtract, multiply, prime numbers – he loves it! This is great for all ages and can interest even the big kids with higher math.

Exact Change

It’s like Uno but with money cards. Instead of matching colors or numbers, you can add cards to match the dollar or change amount on the card. A good fast one.

Zeus on the Loose

Adding, rounding, and fun come mixed in this fast card game. It has some fun with Greek mythology (barely), but it’s not necessarily for learning mythology.

Math Stacks

The kids like one matching game; to me, it reeks of curriculum. However, it’s cheap, so go with it! This is a great one for practicing specific skills they are working in class. It come in fractions, algebra, math facts, place value, geometry, and more.

Blobby’s Pizza

Fractions and pizza-eating cartoon monsters created by a dad.

Traveling the United States with Ticket to Ride
Traveling the United States with Ticket to Ride

Our Favorite “Non-Math” Games For Math

Any game that requires calculating a score or counting points totally counts as math practice for me. Why can’t you combine a favorite game with learning extra skills? I’m all about the double dipping, and these games are such great additions to your family game library that you’ll forget that there is an element of math.

Azul

This is my favorite game to play. The tiles and patterns just make me think I’m traveling in Mexico. This is strategy and matching. Score on this game like Ticket to Ride gives the option of just moving the pawn up the score board; this makes it easier for littles.

Qwirkle

This isn’t math but it’s constant adding and patterns; it totally counts! Qwirkle will forever be a family favorite. My kids were playing with these fun blocks even in toddlerhood for stacking and matching. I was actually introduced to this game by adult friends for a girls’ weekend. It’s not just for kids and sturdy enough for even the roughest little hands.

Phase 10

This is our “play with Memma” game, and my example of how it’s not just a card game. Every round involves strategy and calculating everyone’s score. Give the kids the score pad for some adding. Phase 10 is a classic that many homes have in their game closet. Go get it out.

Carcassonne –

This is a favorite of one of my kids as you place castle, field, or road pieces to get a higher score. There’s not a ton of skill involved but the constant adding and score keeper make it a win.

Ticket to Ride

There are so many versions of this popular game. We have several covering different parts of the world, and it works great with the counter for the kids to move up in their scoring. Honestly, this is more of a big kid game unless you get the junior version.

Patterns and the Beauty of Azul
Patterns and the Beauty of Azul

But Games Aren’t in My Budget!

Good games don’t have to be a huge investment. My favorite place to score some is at thrift stores or garage sales. Ask around if anyone has a game closet somewhere not being used – I’m sure they’d love to get rid of some. Give and request them as gifts; send grandma this list at birthday time and maybe she’ll get the hint. When people know your family loves games, they will come.

Google “Math card games” – the options are almost overwhelming because you could learn a different one every day. Start with these free math card games – the options truly are endless and don’t require anything you don’t already have around the house.

Consider adding National Number Knockout to your game repertoire for a free, multi-purpose math game that costs you nothing. It is great for a wide range of kids, fun enough to challenge adults, and very customizable. Watch the video and get going.

How to Add Extra Math to Games

Most games already have an element math if you look at it from a math perspective. Remember math concepts includes shapes, patterns, and logic. Math is more than just numerals on a tile. There are very few games which don’t involve a final score after all – that’s math! And don’t be afraid to change the rules for game play or look for creative ways to use the game to work for you. Just don’t forget to

  • Change the score for the round to hash marks and practice a different skill.
  • Change the game rules to subtract from a goal (like 100) to be the first to zero.
  • Use a hundreds chart for your littles to concretely count for addition.
  • Discuss different methods to get the total: estimating, combining numbers, adding tens and then ones, etc.
  • Let your little make a pattern while the bigs play by the game rules.
  • Use the game cards or tiles to build a structure, practice symmetry, or just have fun.
Practicing Fractions with Math Stacks
Practicing Fractions with Math Stacks

Mom tip here. Please, quit calling things “learning games” or “math games”. Change you mentality away from “doing school” and just live a life of learning. Just stinkin’ sit down and offer to play a game with your kid- the time with your kid alone is worth playing a game. This is automatic family fun – isn’t that another one of your summer goals?

Save this math game list for Christmas and birthdays and, dare I say, your curriculum budget? Learning math this way is so much better than another textbook. Gameschool for the win!

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