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(Download this paper as a Microsoft Word document)
Teaching Math Concepts with Board Games

Prepared by: Cynthia Thomashow, M.S.T and M.Ed.
Executive Director, Center for Environmental Education
Adjunct Faculty @ Unity College, Maine and Antioch University, NE
June 2009

Many Gryphon Games’ publications are well suited to support the comprehension and practice of mathematical concepts and applications. Below are four such games (available through the parent company, FRED Distribution) that have been matched to National Math Standards: “For Sale”, “24/7 the Game”, “Birds on a Wire”, and “Take It Easy”. Please refer to the support document (BOARD GAMES: Applications to Mathematics) for a more thorough description.

This game comes with two decks of cards, one deck of 30 different properties (with enticing graphics) and one deck with dollar values between $0 and $15 (thousand).

There are two distinct phases to this game. In the first phase you buy properties. You can choose to bid on a property or pass and take the property with the lowest value. The bidding goes around the group until no one is willing to raise the prior bid or everyone has passed. Bidding rounds continue until all property cards from the deck have been distributed among the players.

In the second phase, the same number of money cards as there are players is turned face up on the playing surface. Each player secretly selects a property card from his/her hand and puts it down. The selected cards of all players are turned up simultaneously. Whoever played the highest value property card takes the biggest money card, whoever played the next highest card takes the next in value until they are all distributed. This continues until all money cards have been played from the deck. The winner is the player with the most money.

Strongly supports the practice of the following skills:

  • Assessing Risk, Taking Chances and Using Good Judgment
  • Fractions and Wholes
  • Arithmetic
  • Pattern Making
  • Connections and Sequences
  • Data Analysis and Probability

“24/7 the Game” is an abstract strategy game that combines a skillful numerical math puzzle with the elements of luck. Players take turns laying tiles (picked randomly) on a 7X7 grid and score points for adjacent tiles that create runs, sets and sums of 24 or 7. The players score for combinations of tiles in four directions. The importance of tile placement and strategy is key to winning, the luck of the draw has each participant scrambling to revise strategy and adapt to their opponent’s tactical choices. Play a tile and score points or block your opponent from scoring, there is skill in knowing when to be offensive and when to be defensive with choices.

Players attempt to find the best combinations and while there is some luck of the draw, future planning and logic come into play. Players receive points for completing one or more of the following combinations:

  • The sum of all the tiles in the line equals exactly ‘7’ or ‘24’.
  • Three or four of the same number are in a row.
  • There is a ‘run’ of tiles (2,3,4,etc.) of three, four, five or six tiles of each number.
  • No line can ever have a higher sum than ‘24’. The player with the highest score wins.

Strongly supports the practice of the following skills:

  • The Relationship of Parts to the Whole
  • Assessing Risk, Taking Chances and Using Good Judgment
  • Grids and Graphs
  • Connections and Sequences
  • Number and Operations (arithmetic, commutative, associative, distributive properties)
  • Algorithmic Thinking
  • Algebraic Reasoning
  • Data Analysis and Probability

This is a strategy game that combines simple game mechanics with an engaging mathematical conceptual depth. Each player pulls a bird tile out of a cloth bag and either puts it on a power line card (4X3 grid with blank spots for birds) or puts it on the “sky” board for future use. The goal is to fill up a power line card. Then you count the smallest set of birds with like attributes (color, size, shape, number) that you’ve formed and score points for every bird in that group. So, if you’ve got three flocks, and two of them have two each, and the third group has three, you count the little flocks and get four points for the power grid card.

If you can finish larger sets of birds, your score will be higher but it’s always a risk because a group of two will almost always score… but a group of three will only score if you don’t have any groups of two. There is also a dynamic of ‘migration’ as a result of ‘zap’ tiles that offer defensive and offensive alternatives to each participant. It is a very interactive game full of shifts in tactics and revisions of strategy. Building sets demands constant attention to combinations of attributes and the calculation of probability for pulling the right bird from the bag (there are a limited number of birds representing each attribute). The set demographic can be modified to include more than one attribute, which makes the game more complex mathematically.

Strongly supports the practice of the following skills:

  • The Relationship of Parts to the Whole
  • Assessing Risk, Taking Chances and Using Good Judgment
  • Grids and Graphs
  • Set Attributes and Decision-making
  • Fractions and Wholes
  • Pattern Making
  • Connections and Sequences
  • Operations (associative and distributive properties)
  • Algorithmic Thinking
  • Algebraic Reasoning
  • Data Analysis and Probability

“Take It Easy” is a multi-player solitaire game (like Bingo, everyone plays their own card in response to a ‘caller’). Each player individually completes a hexagon-shaped board with locations for 19 hexagon tiles. There is no limit to the number of players if you have multiple sets available.

One person (the caller) draws a tile randomly and tells the other players which of 27 tiles to play. Each tile features different color, number combinations. The choices cross in three directions on each tile, with numbers from 1 to 9. An example might be “Tile 9-8-7”. Each player must choose an empty spot on his/her own board – finding the most advantageous position for scoring and future placement of tiles until the tiles are exhausted.

The idea is to complete same-numbered/colored lines across the board in multiple directions. Students manage a range of options and with each choice eliminate future possibilities for placement or enhance a chance to score big. Scoring is calculated by multiplying the number on the tile with the number of tiles in the completed line of color. A complete column of three yellow 9’s is worth 27 for example, but you also have a chance to score a column of five 9’s with fortuitous placement. Unlike its ‘cousin’ Bingo, it is a game of great skill.

Strongly supports the practice of the following skills:

  • The Relationship of Parts to the Whole
  • Assessing Risk, Taking Chances and Using Good Judgment
  • Grids and Graphs
  • Measurement
  • Fractions and Wholes
  • Pattern Making
  • Connections and Sequences
  • Operations (associative and distributive properties)
  • Algorithmic Thinking
  • Algebraic Reasoning
  • Data Analysis and Probability



Copyright © Cindy Thomashow and FRED Distribution, Inc., 2009, all rights reserved

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