Board Games Could Be a Win for Your Kid’s Math Skills

Family game night can be more than just a fun time: New research suggests it may even help build some early math skills in young children.

While past research has pointed to games as a way to enhance reading development and literacy, a new comprehensive review finds that number games like Monopoly, Othello, and Chutes and Ladders may help children with math.

“Board games enhance mathematical abilities for young children,” said lead author Jaime Balladares, from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago. “Using board games can be considered a strategy with potential effects on basic and complex math skills. Board games can easily be adapted to include learning objectives related to mathematical skills or other domains.”

These number-based games help improve counting, addition and the ability to recognize if a number is higher or lower than another for young children, according to the study.

Children benefit when they play board games a few times a week supervised by a teacher or another trained adult, the study authors said.

The researchers reviewed 19 studies published from 2000 onward involving children aged 3 to 9. Most of the studies focused on the relationship between board games and mathematical skills.

The children each received special board game sessions about twice a week for 20 minutes over about
six weeks.

Some of the studies grouped children into either the number board game or to a board game that did not focus on numeracy skills, while in other studies all the children participated in number board games but were assigned different games.

All children were assessed on their skills before and after the interventions, with the authors rating success in four categories, including the ability to name numbers; basic number comprehension (such as nine is greater than three); the ability to add and subtract; and interest in mathematics.

In some cases, parents were provided training on using math in games.

The results showed that children had significantly improved math skills for more than 52% of tasks analyzed. In 32% of cases, children in the intervention groups gained better results than those who did not take part in the board game intervention.

The findings were published online July 6 in the journal Early Years.

“Future studies should be designed to explore the effects that these games could have on other cognitive and developmental skills,” Balladares said in a journal news release. “An interesting space for the development of intervention and assessment of board games should open up in the next few years, given the complexity of games and the need to design more and better games for educational purposes.