Math time should be a happy time!
There are so many skills to learn to be competent in math, but there are also so many games to match those exact skills. There are patterns, logic, addition, multiplication, fraction, subtraction, algebra, and many more games on the market.
The trick is knowing where to look and what to buy. Thrift stores are a great place to start. Once one becomes familiar with the different games, online shopping is another great resource.
The sky is the limit when making education fun, and math is one of those areas where creativity can make this subject rewarding!
Pattern Play is produced by the company MindWare. Sometimes company names are important to remember. There are certain companies that produce excellent educational toys and materials. MindWare is one of those companies. When purchasing toys from a store, look for company names. Most of the time, buyers will be pleased when purchasing toys from reputable companies, even if a buyer doesn’t recognize a particular toy.
Pattern Play comes with many differently shaped blocks and pattern cards. The game is brightly colored thus attracting the interest of all ages of children. Don’t let the age recommendation in the corner fool you. This game is great for all ages. The goal is to arrange the blocks to match one of the 40 pattern cards. Some of the puzzles are quite easy, but some are challenging as pieces are flipped and turned to match the pictures. I have two of these. I found them thrifting, but I would buy this one brand new. If you have multiple children around the same age, and two copies of the game, the children could race to see which one finishes the pattern first. If you have one copy of the game, this is an excellent activity for one child to do alone.
This is a great pre-geometry activity, where shapes and figures need to be flipped and turned to match the pattern card. In geometry, students are required to flip figures in their minds to solve problems. Oftentimes, children will think they have finished the puzzle, but upon closer examination, the lines will not match exactly, thus teaching children to flip and turn the figures until the blocks perfectly match the puzzle card. The pieces are very well-made, and the game will last.
Clumsy Thief is produced by Melon Rind, another company name to remember as this company has produced many addition games. These games have some of the most memorable themes on the market. Once again, don’t let the age recommendation fool you. While the game skills target elementary school children, the game is so much fun that adults enjoy playing as well.
Clumsy Thief is just what the title suggests. The theme is centered around piles of money and “cutesy” thieves trying to steal the money. There are even jail cards to protect the money piles from being stolen. The cards that come with the game feature money amounts, thieves, and jail cards. The goal is to make piles of cards that add to 100. There are different denominations that add to 100 in this game. For example, 85+15, 70+30, 60+40, 50+50, 55+45.
At the beginning of the game, cards are dealt to all players. When we play, we deal more cards than suggested in the rules to help the game play a little faster. With just three players, we get stuck often. But no worries, when the game is stuck, each player just draws one more card from the deck. After the cards are dealt, each player makes their own piles of cards that add to 100, in the beginning, two cards for each pile. Then the “stealing” begins. Players can “steal” other players’ piles by placing a card on top that adds to 100. For example, if one player has an 85 and a 15 in a pile, if the 15 is on top, another player can “steal” with an 85. Players can also “steal” with a thief card. Once the piles get nice and plump, players can top the thief cards with a jail card to prevent their pile from being stolen again. The goal of making each pile nice and plump is to gain more money in the end. When a player runs out of cards or the draw pile is empty, the game is over. Each player adds up their cards by counting 100’s. The player with the most money in the end wins.
Children love this game. Addition skills are practiced. Memorizing denominations that add to 100 is a skill that is naturally acquired through game play. This game is a win-win!
Squashed 3D is one of those games I found in a thrift store. The inventors of this game are genius! This was one of those gems found on a thrift store shelf, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pay full price for this one.
Grab a regular deck of playing cards. Before each players’ turn, flip over two cards and multiply, add, subtract, divide, whatever skill your child is practicing. Remember, the Jacks equal 11, the Queens equal 12, the Kings equal 13, the Jokers equal 0, and the Aces equal 1.
In Squashed, each player chooses a color. The pegs are placed in the cube where indicated by color. There is a king pin that is placed on top in the center. Roll the die and move, either horizontally or vertically. The goal is to land on your opponents, to jump over your opponents, or to land in one of the 4 spaces beside the king pin. If you perform the first two actions mentioned, you can squash your opponent by pushing your opponent’s peg through the cube. If you perform the last action, you can squash a WHOLE side of a cube and squash all of the pegs on that side. THIS GAME IS SO MUCH FUN! And the best part? The children are practicing math facts the whole time.
There is absolutely no reason for educational time to be boring and mundane. While children do need to perform book work, there are plenty of opportunities to spice things up and to make things fun. The goal is to raise happy, competent, confident children who absolutely LOVE education. The goal is to accomplish that with no tears and no fear of learning new things. Have fun, folks! Embrace childhood with laughter and create happy memories with the children in your lives. Children only have one childhood. Make it a good one!
Becky Hill lives in Green River, Wyoming, with her husband of 29 years. She has 3 grown children and 2 grand dogs. Becky earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ouachita Baptist University, in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 1990. She earned a Biblical Studies Certificate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in Deerfield, Illinois, in 1993. Becky began homeschooling two of her children unexpectedly 13 years ago. Despite many challenges along the way, Becky creatively enabled both of her children to succeed. While her homeschooling adventures are over, she loves tutoring children and helping them to conquer subjects with no fear. Her specialty is mathematics. One of her favorite hobbies is creatively incorporating games into tutoring. The goal, she believes, is no tears, no fear, and a competent, confident, and happy child. She has a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page called “The Happy Math Nerd."
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