You don’t have to spend money to create a fun math board game for your children. With a few basic materials, you can make something at home. Depending on your children’s ages and artistic interests, they can even help you develop the best math game ever.
Large poster board
Markers, pens, colored pencils and/or crayons
Magazines, scissors, glue (optional)
Manipulatives for counting assistance (macaroni, small blocks, Legos)
Playing pieces (cars, cute erasers, coins, bottle tops)
Craft Your Game
Be creative with your board game, making fun starting and ending points. For example, the start space on your game could be your home, and the end point (winner’s space) could be grandma’s house, the ice cream shop, an amusement park, or whatever you and your child can dream up. Give the game a name that reflects the design (and math) theme.
Create blocks that lead from the start space to the winner’s spot. Use a ruler to make each of the spaces the same size, say two-inch squares, so the game looks nice and neat. However, if it’s not perfect, don’t sweat it. Your game will still be fun and your homemade board may become a family treasure. You can put the spaces all around the perimeter of the poster board like in Monopoly or sort of scroll them toward the finish line as in Candy Land.
Write a math challenge, such as add 2 plus 2 or multiply 8 times 2, in each box. Little ones might do better with basic counting exercises or incorporating movement into the challenges. For example, clap three times or jump up five times. Illustrate the game board with colorful drawings or stickers or glue on goofy images from old magazines.
Take care to create a game board that aligns with your child’s attention span in addition to her growing math skills.
Play and Learn
To play, each player selects a playing piece as her game piece. Each player rolls the dice on her turn with the youngest player rolling first. The player adds the numbers on the dice moving her piece a corresponding number of spaces ahead on the board.
When a player lands on a space, she must solve the math challenge in order to stay there. This is where the manipulatives may come in handy. Children can use them to perform the required math operation and solve the problem at hand. If a player does not solve the question correctly, she must return to the previous space. That player will roll the dice again on his or her next turn.
Liven It Up
You can make a non-math landing space here and there for a bit of comic relief. For example, the space could require the player to tell a joke, do a little dance, sing a song, or make a funny face. You might also include random spaces that tell the player to go backwards or jump ahead a space or two just to keep things lively.
Playing to Win
The first player to reach the final space wins the game, but we know that all players win because they’re developing math skills. If you play this game with your children (as opposed to observing them at play), adapt it to include higher level challenges. For example, you might change addition problems to multiplication or division. If you get “stuck” on your challenge, ask your kids to help you reason it through.
Last, but not least, remember that board games are supposed to be fun! Be sure to engage in this type of play when you are feeling relaxed and open to low-key fun.