Math Board Games

Two of the most sought after skills that parents and educators want games to develop is math skills and social skills. This shows two things for me.

  • Firstly, they are familiar with the characteristics of games and board games, understanding that there are solutions in these areas.

  • Secondly, we can easily identify issues related to these aspects. And to all this, the fun factor of playing adds up; it doesn't take an expert to know that learning is more enjoyable through play.

In the past ten years, during the more than a hundred lectures, workshops, and training sessions I've had the privilege to conduct, I don't recall a single instance where mathematics didn't come up as a highlighted developmental area.

Of course, each case is unique, but in this article, I aim to compile my most important responses, primarily focusing on the titles of specific games.

Quick jump to sections:

Educational math board games: Game of Six, Math Dice, Mastermind, Pentomino, Smath, Mammoth Maths, Prime Climb.

Modern Board games that impact math skills: Ganz Schon Clever, Richochet Robots, Mahe, Schnapp den Sack, Patchwork, Qwirkle, Splendor.

Educational math board games: Game of Six, Math Dice, Mastermind, Pentomino, Smath, Mammoth Maths, Prime Climb.

Modern Board games that impact math skills: Ganz Schon Clever, Richochet Robots, Mahe, Schnapp den Sack, Patchwork, Qwirkle, Splendor.

What board game helps with math?

Based on my experience there can be two different responses to this based on what the people mean:

The educational math board games route

  • They want to discover games created with the specific purpose of developing a mathematical area during play.

  • Focus is on knowledge transfer.

The general board game route

  • They are interested in board games that, while educational, do not primarily focus on the direct impact on mathematical areas.

  • Focus is on motivation.

Which answer you need will be something only you will know, so in this article, I aim to cater to both directions.

In general, whether you are a teacher or a parent, you certainly know your children better than I do. Some prefer knowing that they are learning because focus is important to them, but we also know many children who need learning to be hidden as the mere fact of having to perform blocks them. I also cannot know whether you are looking for math games because something is challenging, or because something is going well. Catching up and talent development can both be excellent goals.

Let's start with so-called edutainment games, where education is more emphasized. Then, we'll take a look into the world of modern board games. What won't be covered are the classic abstract smart games like Chess or Go, as they quite clearly have a beneficial impact on numerous mathematical areas and are frequently discussed.

Educational math board games

You will find three types of games here:

  1. Games that can be played and made with few tools. Whil they might not be as colorful and fragrant as boxed board games, they do offer developmental goals for children.

  2. Games that you probably know but might not come to mind when thinking about mathematical development.

  3. Board games created specifically for direct mathematical development.

Game of Six

Reiner Knizia, the renowned and highly prolific game designer wrote a book titled "Dice Games - Properly Explained" which is considered a true treasure trove. We have already discussed Pig on this page in the context of tool-free games, now let's take a look at the game called Game of Six. You will need this table for it.

The goal is to earn the most points. The game consists of six rounds, so everyone rolls a six-sided die six times.

The value of each roll is then entered into one of the still-empty rows marked with their name, performing the multiplication associated with that row. For example, in the x3 row, if you roll a 4, you enter 4x3, which is 12 points.

When the table is filled, everyone adds up the points earned in each round. The winner is the one with the most points.

There are many types of dice, and you can freely expand the rows of the table, allowing you to practice any multiplication table with this game.

7+ yrs

5-10 min

2-4 players

Develops: multiplication, addition

Even though this game is available in stores and can be purchased, it can actually be played at home with just two specially designed dice.

Roll the two 12-sided dice and multiply the two values - this will be the target value.

Then, roll the three six-sided dice. You need to use these three values in any combination, employing any mathematical operation, to reach a result that best approximates the target value. Players think about this simultaneously. For example, if you roll a six and a seven, their product is 42.

Then, roll three sixes and combine them, for instance: (6x6)+6, which also equals 42.

You can use a timer, such as an hourglass, but if the goal is for children to explore various possibilities, you can skip this.

After a while, if no better solution is found than one previously stated, you can move on to the next round.

8+ yrs

5-10 min

1+ player

Develops: calculation, addition and subtraction, number system, logical thinking

The Mastermind is a game that can be found in many households and/or acquired inexpensively. It's a game we tend to overlook, yet it provides great entertainment and is very useful for developing mathematical skills. I often play with my 6-year-old daughter, so I handle the recommended age of 8 quite loosely.

It's a two-player game where one person creates a secret code, and the other tries to guess it.

The code represents a combination of colors - using a color multiple times adds complexity to the game. The codebreaker uses color combinations to inquire continuously about the solution.

After each attempt, they receive three types of feedback: correct color and correct position, correct color but incorrect position, incorrect color.

The real challenge during the game is not whether they can guess the code - that almost always happens, providing a sense of achievement - but how many attempts it takes. The fewer the better.

8+ yrs

20 min

2 players

Develops: logical thinking, combinatorial and permutation skills, pattern recognition

Some of its elements became famous through Tetris, I'm familiar with them from there as well, but there's also a mathematical definition: A pentomino is a polyomino built from five equal-sized squares. There are 12 different elements (identical ones are considered the same). The rules of the game are infinitely simple.

We evenly distribute the 12 elements, and the goal is to place as many elements as possible on the 8x8 board.

Players take turns, and the one who has placed more elements wins.

As simple as the rules are, playing Pentomino well is equally challenging. Both the elements and the board can be easily made at home, so there's no obstacle to a little rearranging.

7+ yrs

10 min

2 players

Develops: calculation, addition and subtraction, number system, logical thinking

Smath is an engaging and educational board game that seamlessly blends math practice with strategic gameplay.

With its innovative design, players are challenged to solve math problems strategically to outsmart their opponents.

The game is not only an effective tool for reinforcing math skills but also an enjoyable experience for players of all ages. Its unique combination of learning and entertainment makes Smath an ideal choice for families, educators, and anyone looking to enhance their math proficiency in a fun and interactive way. 

6+ yrs

45 min

2-4 players

Develops: calculation, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, logical thinking, pattern recognition

The profile of Orchard Toys on BGG is specifically focused on educational games, and the Mammoth Maths is a good example of this.

This is a very simple roll-and-move game that aims to captivate with its beautiful graphics and attractive design. Due to its simplicity, it can be enjoyable even for those who are not big board game enthusiasts.

You simply have to solve tasks to collect the necessary stone rings. The solutions can be checked by the child themselves with a clever and visually appealing solution that is also related to the theme. Kids usually really enjoy this!

5+ yrs

5-15 min

2-4 players

Develops: addition, subtraction

Prime Climb introduces players to the world of prime numbers in an interactive and strategic way. With its colorful design and innovative mechanics, Prime Climb challenges players to use basic arithmetic operations to navigate the board and reach prime numbers.

The game not only reinforces mathematical skills but also encourages strategic thinking as players work to optimize their moves and outsmart their opponents.

10+ yrs

20-45 min

1-4 players

Develops: primes and composite numbers, multiplication and divisibility, calculation and basic operations, strategy and logic

The game that proved that even with dice rolls alone, a truly challenging game can be created. I won't deny the element of luck, but it relies much more on thinking and strategy. It's one of my personal favorites.

The player in turn rolls the dice and selects one. When making a choice, it should be considered that by choosing a die with a value lower than the selected one, all dice with smaller values are lost, and they cannot be rolled again in this round.

This process is repeated twice more, resulting in three dice - although it might be fewer - with which the player performs actions. Others can then choose one die from the remaining ones.

The flow of the game is straightforward: the entered points, marked Xs can initiate multi-step chain reactions, and it's incredibly satisfying to experience, although it's quite challenging to calculate beforehand.

There's another trick: during score calculation, the least valuable area's point value can be received multiple times if you have collected the necessary symbols, so striving for balance in the game is crucial.

Ganz Schön Clever is indeed a very clever game, requiring constant calculation, navigating through chains of effects, and weighing options.

Ganz Schön Clever: Can be played during a train trip, too

8+ yrs

30 min

1-4 players

Develops: combinations and permutations, addition, multiplication, strategy and decision making, mathematical logic

Alex Randolph is one of the most important game designers for me and from the perspective of the birth of modern board games. That's why it's perhaps justified that two of his games appear on my small, subjective list.

Ricochet Robots was the board game I first wholeheartedly declared as my favorite. It impressed me, for example, that it states on the box that an infinite number of players can play simultaneously, which I find very cool.

But what really fascinated me was the game situation it creates: everyone silently stares at the board, seemingly nothing is happening, then someone announces a number, flips the hourglass, and everyone starts getting excited.

The goal is to move a specific robot to its destination in as few steps as possible. Whoever finds this solution earns a point. The robots cannot stop anywhere, only by hitting walls or each other, and their steps can only be counted mentally; you can't touch the robots.

Essentially, we mentally program the robots' paths, so it's not an easy game, but it's worth investing energy into.

10+ yrs

30 min

1+ players

Develops: spatial awareness, logical reasoning, coordination and planning, mathematical thinking, working memory, programming

The idea of stacking pieces on top of each other didn't originate with Camel Up; Alex Randolph has several games with this concept, and Mahé is one of them, turned 50 in 2024. Despite its age, I can still engage children with it to this day.

The winner is the one who collects the most eggs during the game. There is always an egg card flipped up, indicating the reason for the race. The player who completes the circuit first gets the card, and movement is determined by dice rolls.

There are three dice, and players decide how much they want to roll, but the total value cannot exceed seven. The value of the roll is then multiplied by the number of dice. So, if you roll a six, you can move six spaces (6x1). If you roll two dice and get a three on each, you can move 12 spaces because 3+3 is six, and you multiply that by two.

Players roll one die at a time and can choose whether to roll again. If the total exceeds seven, you must go back to the starting point. Additionally, if you land on a space occupied by another player, you stack on top of them, and they carry you along. If you complete the circuit in this way, you win the card because you were on top.

So, there's a lot to consider, constant reliance on luck, risk-taking, and, of course, counting, counting, and counting...

Caption to this image

6+ yrs

20 min

2-6 players

Develops: counting, multiplication, addition

Schnapp den Sack

I often recommend this game as an alternative to Mammoth Maths when someone wants to incorporate practicing simple additions more indirectly into a fun party game.

Schnapp den Sack translates to "Grab the Bag," and the goal is to quickly grab the bag when the right quantity is visible on the table. Even this task is not necessarily easy, but by flipping new cards, you can find solutions where a new card covers an old one, creating the correct quantity.

Recognizing the pattern of quantities is a significant aid in quickly assessing this, making it a useful practice with this game.

Schnapp den Sack: quick counting and grabbing the bag

8+ yrs

15 min

2-5 players

Develops: addition, strategic thinking, number sorting and comparison, counting and comparison

Patchwork is a beautiful and clever two-player game, which is a rare and excellent combination. It is very similar to Pentomino, but some clever rules result in a truly modern board game, elevating it to a different level.

There are more elements, and players choose from a shared set, influencing each other's choices. Moreover, everything comes at a cost, and if you choose something too valuable, your opponent may have multiple turns before it's your chance again. Thus, what starts as a simple area control game turns into a serious tactical game. And it looks absolutely beautiful.

8+ yrs

15-30 min

2 players

Develops: geometry, counting, volume and area, strategy and tactics

This was the game with which I managed to introduce my mom to the world of modern board games. Since then, her collection has been growing every year, and she now has around twenty titles lined up on the shelf.

Players aim to create lines of tiles that share either the same shape or color, scoring points for each tile placed and bonus points for completing a line. The game offers a delightful mix of strategy and pattern recognition, making it accessible for various age groups.

With its simple rules and engaging gameplay, Qwirkle provides an enjoyable experience for both casual and strategic players.

6+ yrs

45 min

2-4 players

Develops: pattern recognition, set theory, spatial awareness

The simplicity of the game immediately captivated me. Its functionality is so natural and intuitive that one wonders why no one came up with it sooner. There's nothing extra in it, yet it's perfectly assembled.

How it is played: I collect chips to then collect cards, which partly replace the chips and can also earn points. In a nutshell, that's Splendor.

It's a game of rhythm and redesign. Without flexibility, you won't get far, as everyone works from the same set, and the available cards to acquire can change in an instant. It's one of the tightest games I know, with incredibly small differences between players. Typically, others are only 1-2-3 turns behind the winner, which is both fantastic and frustrating.

I also like its design; it's a great feeling to shuffle the chips.

Schnapp den Sack: quick counting and grabbing the bag

10+ yrs

30 min

2-4 players

Develops: resource management, arithmetic, economic concepts

A possible journey

With the listed games, I have a lot of good experiences, but there are surely other excellent choices as well. If you've gone through the above list, it's possible that something on your shelf also came to mind, which could be good for developing mathematical skills.

With a bit of exaggeration, every board game involves some level of math. If nothing else, you need to add up the points. The key is to try out many things and pay attention because if a particular direction works with the kids, that's the path to follow.

Have a great journey! And most importantly: have fun playing!

Feedback time!

Feedback time!

Even more math games

65 Superb Math Games for Adults: Your Key to Skill Improvement!