Have you ever played a game as a family…but at a certain point the younger kids start throwing pieces, and/or the older kids are checking out on their phones? This is the universal sign that they’re either over- or under-challenged. Fortunately, there are some clever strategies to help make some of the most beloved old board games just challenging enough to keep kids of all ages engaged. Try these tips to make the game accessible to all players, and give them some fun math practice, too.
Game #1: Multiplying Past Uno
Traditional Uno is a fun game for matching colors and numbers, but you can add different levels to the same game to bring an extra challenge for older children.
- Level 1: Have younger children identify the colors and numbers as they place them into the pile. If you have a toddler watching along, encourage them to say the numbers and colors, too!
- Level 2: Challenge children to multiply the number on the card they are covering with the card they place on the pile. If they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will multiply 3 x 5 to get 15. If your child is just learning to multiply, you can let them use a multiplication chart!
- Level 3: Take the challenge to the next power with exponents! Have your child use the number they cover and raise it to the power of the card they place down on the pile. For example, if they cover a red 3 with a red 5, they will answer 3 to the fifth power, or 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3. Don’t worry, they can always use a calculator for faster calculations!
Game #2: Candyland Makes a Difference!
Yes, it’s exciting to think about a magical land filled with candy. Add an even sweeter touch to this matching colors game when kids practice counting and subtracting.
- Level 1: When players draw a card with a color, have them count aloud the boxes they move.
- Level 2: Have players continue to add on to their previous number as they make their way to the finish line. For example, if they are on the 14th square color from their last turn, when they get another turn, they should continue counting up from 14. Highlight a hundreds chart to help them keep track of their last number, or they can write the numbers on their number chart as they go!
- Level 3: Instead of using the color cards from the game, challenge your older children to use two 20 dice and move the difference of the two dice. Since they may finish long before the younger players, have them complete the board two or three times in order to win.
Game #3: Sorry Substitutions!
Saying “Sorry” is never as fun as when you’re eliminating an opponent’s pawn on the board! Since all pawn movements in the game are based on the numbers on the cards, you can add an extra challenge, or simplify the game, by changing the cards.
- Level 1: Let players use the number cards that come with the game, but use a separate deck with a limited number of cards. So, if you really want your children to recognize numbers like 1, 2, and 3, then you can use the cards with only those numbers. As your children learn more numbers, you can add those to the deck. Alternatively, you can use ten frame cards.
- Level 2: Switch out the number cards for cards with number sentences (10 – 8) that ask players to add, subtract, or divide to get the number of places they need to move their pawn. Increase the challenge further by adding two-digit numbers.
- Level 3: Make the math more difficult when you substitute the number cards for cards with exponents or equations that contain variables! Since some exponents may repeat, like 2¹ = 2, players can practice solving the cards quickly and memorize some of the applicable rules.
Remember, in gameplay, the rules of the game are what all the players agree to. Feel free to change any game to make it accessible to each individual member of your family using some of these math-inspired adjustments!
By Jennifer Sobalvarro, who has experience teaching in 3rd and 5th grade classrooms as well as ELL instruction.