Monopoly (Part 2)

When you play Monopoly with your kids, let them be the banker. Yes, I know, this will make the game even longer. It's worth the wait.

Kids today need as much exposure to handling money as possible. Maybe you're unconvinced: with credit cards and Venmo, kids don't need to learn how to make change and count bills anymore, right?

I fully disagree. In fact, I think the opposite is true: In previous generations, parents and kids had numerous opportunities to talk about math while paying for groceries or settling up at the pharmacy. Kids naturally gravitate to these shiny coins and green slips of paper, and their questions gave parents a chance to talk about how pennies convert to nickels and how $1 bills compare to $20s. 

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Monopoly (Part 1)

As I type this, my son is playing Monopoly with his closest friend. I'm elated for two reasons. First, he's doing a ton of mathematical thinking right now. And more importantly, I don't have to play.

Maybe you've wondered why it's taken me over a year to write about the most famous board game of all time. Honestly, it's because Monopoly just isn't my favorite game. The first 20 minutes or so are fun, as you collect properties and try to negotiate trades with your opponents.

But after that, a sense of dread sets in as you realize that one player lucked into a much better set of properties than the others, and it's just a matter of time before they win. But when I say time, I mean time. Games can last two hours, and usually the person on the bad end of a bankruptcy feels pretty miserable for the last hour or so, as they barely pull their way out of poverty, only to slide back down due to a bad roll of the dice.

(It's almost like the creator of the game was making a point about capitalism!)

But my son loves the game, and his love of the game has made me re-evaluate Monopoly and think of ways to keep the fun and the math, while removing a bit of the grind. In next week's newsletter, I'll spend the whole time talking about the role of the banker. This week, I'll focus on the dice, the board, and the proper way to play Monopoly.

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LEGO Blindfold Build Challenge

I spent my entire childhood playing with LEGO sets. I hardly ever built the designs on the boxes. Instead, my friend Turner and I would try to invent our own space ships, robots, and bat caves, using whatever bricks we had handy.

My son, on the other hand, prefers to build exactly what is on the box and then set it on the shelf for months at a time. So when I cajole and encourage him to make something from his own imagination, I don't often get far.

Fortunately, my friend Joel Bezaire shared a perfect way to turn LEGO building into a game. It's called the LEGO Blindfold Build Challenge.

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Patchwork

Sometimes I am deeply grateful that my son is just as interested in board games as I am. Other times, I feel like I've created a monster.

The kid wakes up at 6am on the weekends and jumps on my bed, waking me up with "Chess?"

"You know, I'm probably going to need a second to wake up before we launch into any games."

"Ok, so then after you have coffee we can play?"

Clearly he understands the concept of checkmate.

All of that to say, my son's most recent obsession was the game Patchwork, which I got him for Hanukkah. It's a great game for us to play, since it's specifically designed for two players and has enough strategy to keep me guessing. We've probably played it between 15 and 20 times in the past month, and I'm still happy to play whenever he wants.

As long as I've had my coffee.

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Liar's Dice

If you are a reader of Games for Young Minds, then you are probably either:

a) A parent of kids who, after a long Winter Break, need something to keep them entertained so they will Stop. Screaming. At.  Each. Other.

b) A teacher who is trying to think of a fun activity for the first day of the new semester.

c) All of the above

I fall into that third category, so I thought I'd share a game that is always one of my biggest hits of the school year: Liar's Dice. This is also a perfect home-for-the-holidays game, since you can easily accommodate three, four, or more players. As long as you have enough dice for everyone, everyone in the family can join!

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Kingdomino

This week, I'm sharing one of the games from my Holiday Gift Guide. I hadn't intended to write about Kingdomino so soon, but my son just can't get enough of the game. As it happens, I was able to capture some great video of him thinking through some of the math in the game, and I couldn't resist sharing.

Kingdomino is a great game for two, three or four players, but my son and I both prefer the two-player version. The strategy gets harder, the scores go higher, and there seem to be more ways to win.

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Dots and Boxes

Sometimes I want a game that will take up an entire hour, the sort of game that can absorb me and my kids on a rainy afternoon. On those days, I reach for Qwirkle or Mastermind.

But other times, I just need a game that will keep my kids occupied for ten minutes while we wait for the dentist to call us back. In those moments, I am looking for a game that is quick, fun, and easy to learn.

Dots and Boxes is a perfect game for these situations. All you need is a pencil and paper (or a crayon and the back of a kid's menu). Of course, knowing me, I've found all sorts of deeper math in this simple game. But first let's just take a look at how the game is played.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Looking for a gift for your kids that's fun, but perhaps a little more intellectually stimulating than the Nerf MurderGun 5000 or Princess Daenerys's Glitter-Shedding Dragon? Don't worry, Games for Young Minds has got you covered.

Below, I've shared two games for each age level: One game that I've profiled previously, and a new game that I haven't gotten the chance to write about. No matter what age your child or what games they've played before, you should be able to find something useful below. Enjoy!

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Qwirkle - Play Scrabble before you can read!

Have you ever played one of those people in Scrabble who knows all the two-letter words?

I'm not talking about "it" and "he." I mean someone who confidently plays "qi" and then dares you to Google it. 

My friend Robin is one of those people. I have played her in Scrabble since high school, and I have no idea how many times I've lost to her. But I definitely remember how many times I've won: zero.

Don't get me wrong, Scrabble is a fantastic game. Someday I'll probably write a newsletter (or three) about it. But it does pose a problem, especially for parents: How do you play a word-based game with a kid (or friend) with a much lower vocabulary than you? What if your kid can't even read or spell yet?

Fortunately, I have found the perfect introductory game to the fun and strategy of Scrabble: Qwirkle. If you play Qwirkle with your five-, six-, and seven-year-olds, they'll be totally ready to dive into Scrabble as older kids.

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Prime Climb - Make your way to 101!

I'll admit it: this week's game is for older kids. 

I've been holding onto this game, Prime Climb, for over a year, just waiting to see when my kids would be old enough to play. I even tried a modified version with my 6-year-old son, but it just didn't work. To get to the heart of this game, you really need to know the ideas of multiplication and division. I'd recommend this game for kids who are at least in 3rd grade.

The good news is, the game is just as fun with older kids and with adults. I was able to buy a class set of Prime Climb games for my math games elective, and my 8th graders absolutely loved the game. They got to use math creatively in a way that they rarely have, and I had just as much fun as they did. 

In school, math often feels like a set of procedures that you must perfectly mimic. But in Prime Climb, you are free to be as mathematically creative as you want.

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Map Wars - Can you color in the entire map?

I love a game where a child's intuition can lead them down a path toward a mathematical discovery. The easier the on-ramp into a mathematical game, the likelier a child is to find their own patterns and make their own discoveries.

Last week, I shared a puzzle game called Don't Connect the Dots! that provided a kid-friendly introduction to the rich mathematical world of graph theory. This week I'll be sharing another game, Map Wars, that is more deeply related to Don't Connect the Dots! than you might expect at first. 

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Don't Connect the Dots!

In the past I've mentioned that I am teaching an elective at my middle school that is all about math games and mathematical artwork. My students have gotten to make origami, fractals like the Sierpinski Triangle and the Koch Snowflake (pictured), and stellated icosahedrons.

Since I have 29 kids in my room, I am always looking for cost-effective games that contain math ideas. So I was elated to come upon this wonderful post by Joel David Hamkins about teaching graph theory to seven-year-olds. I adapted some of his materials and turned them into a game I call Don't Connect the Dots!

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Is This Game Too Tough For My Child?

A few weeks back, I did a celebratory Q&A for my first 1000 subscribers. I had such a fun time writing my answers that I kept an eye out for other questions about games, math, and parenting.

Well, last weekend I was talking with another parent about birthday presents when they hit me with a question I just had to answer in the newsletter. So here we go!

Alison asks:

I've noticed that you always seem to recommend games to kids who are on the younger side: the box recommends players 8 and older, but you'll recommend it for 5 or 6 year olds. Why is that? Won't the kids get frustrated by a game that's too hard for them?

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Rummikub - A Classic Rummy-Based Tile Game

Often, when I teach my kids a game, we play a couple of "face up" rounds, where everyone can see each other's cards or pieces. During the game, we talk freely about every player's options, as well as strategies that might pay off in the future.

As I've begun playing games with more and more kids, I've come to realize that face-up variations of games are just as fun! Instead of patiently waiting my turn, I am able to engage my kids in a conversation about what their possible goals might be, and how they can reach those goals. 

I'd like to illustrate this idea by discussing the game Rummikub, a classic tile-based game that I was introduced to on a family beach trip this past summer.

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Attribute Train - Turn Your Junk Drawer into a Math Game

One of my favorite parts of writing this newsletter is that I get great game recommendations all the time. A friend will text me a picture of a game they found at Target and, before you know it, I'm inventing a toilet paper shortage so I can run down to the store.

This is why free games are my (and my wife's) favorite game recommendations. And boy, do I have a great one this week.

I learned about Attribute Train from Meredith Wilkes, who shares a bunch of great moments of early math on Twitter. I immediately played the game with my older two kids, both of whom absolutely loved the game. It's now a mainstay at the Haines household.

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Sequence for Kids - An Excellent Introduction to Board Games

I played a lot of classic board games as a kid, but I got sick of them eventually. It seemed like a dead hobby: once you got sick of Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk, what else was there?

Then my uncle brought Sequence to a family gathering and I fell in love with games again. I particularly enjoyed playing in teams, trying to work together with my partner without any direct communication.

My kids are a little too young for Sequence, especially my 3-year-old. Fortunately, the makers of Sequence have come out with Sequence for Kids, a game that keeps the spirit of the original game while making the rules accessible for kids as young as three.

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Lowest Number Wins - How Low Can You Go?

This week my family celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, by having 32 folks over for dinner on Sunday night. It was a glorious, crazy mess, as indicated by this picture of my brain afterward (artist's rendition).

At one point I found myself in a room with kids of all ages who were starting to get very vocal with their predictions about when, if ever, the dessert was going to be served. I realized that I was in a place I've been many times as a teacher: stuck in a room with a bunch of bored, hungry kids with nothing to do.

It struck me in that moment that sometimes parents need a quick, easy multi-age game just as much as I do in my classroom! I've shared a few options in the past, such as the 100 Game or Ultimate Tic Tac Toe. But what if you need something really quick, really easy, and really fun?

Lowest Number Wins is that game.

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Press Here - A Book You Can Play!

Have your kids ever tried to "play" a book the way that they play a game?

My son has this little game with an alphabet book where he will deliberately tell me the wrong letter to make a funny word. So on the "H is for Horse" page, I ask him which letter he sees, and he'll respond "Z," which forces me to say "Z is for Zorse," at which point he falls out of the bed laughing every. Single. Time.

On other nights, my two older kids work together to recite the entirety of The Book with No Pictures by heart. Which is tough to do when you're too young to read and the book, as it advertises, has no pictures! (By the way, this book was written by Ryan from The Office, and it is hilarious. Check it out.)

And of course I've shared in the past about how my kids turned How Many?, the greatest math book of all time, into a guessing game.

These little games make bedtime into a special part of the day for me. I can get as worn down as any parent, repeating the same book word-for-word over and over. But when my kids find a little game in the middle of a book, they bring a spark of novelty that livens up the whole room.

So I'd love to share the most playable book I've ever read: Press Here.

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1000 Subscriber Q&A!

t's a big week here at Games for Young Minds!

When I started this newsletter back in October of last year, my only goal was to write something helpful every week. I had lots of friends who were confused about how to help their children learn math, and I wanted to create some simple methods for fostering mathematical conversations. Games seemed like the perfect avenue.

Clearly, many of you shared this newsletter with friends and family members, and for that I can't thank you enough. It means a lot to me that you like the newsletter enough to share it and build the audience for these ideas.

So to celebrate you, my readers, I've devoted this week's newsletter to some reader questions! Honestly, I had so much fun writing this newsletter that I'd love to make Q&A a semi-regular feature of the newsletter. So if this newsletter sparks any questions in your mind, feel free to send them my way!

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Product Dice - The Sequel to Sum Dice

So last week, I wrote about Sum Dice, a simple and quick game that can be quite a fun introduction into the concept of fairness.

What makes a game fair? Essentially, a fair game should be one where both players have an equal chance of winning. Sometimes people like playing an unfair game, such as blackjack, because they can "beat the odds" and get the adrenaline rush of winning when they should have lost.

But mostly, people like to play fair games, and they definitely hate playing a game that seems fair but is actually rigged in one way of another.

So that's why Product Dice is such a fun and devilish game to play, once your child has played and thought about Sum Dice.

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