Numbers are all around us and we use them every day. What’s the time difference between the east and west coasts? How many miles per gallon does your car get? What percentage of your income are you paying to the IRS? Which of two similar items in a grocery store is the better deal? How much do we tip a server or taxi driver? What does a 20% discount mean in actual dollars? What’s your favorite player’s batting average and your team’s win-loss percentage? Sadly, too many of us have trouble with basic calculations, partly because we decided as kids that math was either irrelevant (not true) or not fun (often true). This week we take a look at a line of games that will help you and the kids brush up on your math skills—and, perhaps more importantly, are a great fun for everyone.
Think Scrabble, but with numbers and mathematical equations instead of letters. Each player starts with seven tiles and plays as many as he or she can, combining them with the tiles that are already on the board to create number problems. Like Scrabble, there are blanks and double- and triple-value squares. A few interesting things are going on here. First, you’re using all four basic math functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For advanced players, there’s no reason why you can’t add square roots, trigonometry, or more. Second, because the equations on the board are go up, down, and even backwards, you’ll start thinking about numbers in a very different way. Third, while calculations are essential, if you want to win, you’ll also need to employ logic and strategy. Ages 9 and up. $17.95
This variation on the classic is aimed at kids 5 and up. The tiles are larger and colorful, which makes them easier to handle and more fun for little hands to play with. The board has two sides, one designed for those just getting used to using numbers, the other for those who’re pretty good but aren’t quite ready to move up to the big-kid/grown-up version. $18.95
With a nod to the current Texas Hold ‘Em poker craze, Quattro uses a deck of 106 numbered cards instead of tiles. Players get dealt a hand and then four additional cards go face up in the middle. Players then create math equations by combining the numbers in their hand with those on the table. The one who uses the most cards wins. Again, the rules say only addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, but it’s fine with us if you want to add more advanced skills. Ages 9 and up. $6.69
While the basic theme of creating equations is the same, this game adds a degree of difficulty by using domino-like tiles that have different numbers on each end. You score points by strategically placing your tiles on the board, building off of the ones that are already there. Ages 9 and up. $9.97
Mathable games are great for road trips. But with so many small pieces, you’re bound to lose some. The Mathable booklet solves that problem by cleverly creating versions of Domino, Quattro, and several other games that you can do on paper. All you’ll need is a pencil. And a big eraser. Ages 9 and up. $5.95