Sorry! (the game)
Ages: 5 and up
Cost: $9 (Purchase on Amazon)
Math Ideas: One-to-one correspondence, decomposition
Questions to Ask:
What card do you hope you draw? Why?
What card do you not want to draw this turn? Why?
If you draw a 7, how will you split the seven moves between your pieces?
How many spaces until you are safe?
Sorry! is a classic board game for a reason - it’s easy enough to play with a 5 year old, yet complex enough to enjoy with older kids. If you’re new to playing games with your kids, this is a great place to start. As long as your child is old enough to recognize the numbers on the cards, she is ready to play Sorry!
How to Play
The game is played on a board with a deck of cards. Each player draws a card and moves one of her pieces according to the number listed on the card, trying to get all her pieces safely home. Kids particularly love the Sorry! card, which allows them to jump from start to anywhere on the board, smashing another player's piece back to its start and taking its place. Kids also love landing on the special “slide" spaces, especially if they can bump other pieces back to start as they slide along.
Where’s the Math?
Sorry! is a great game for helping kids with counting. Specifically, it helps kids internalize the idea that when they draw a 5, each number in the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 corresponds with a space on the board. This idea, known to math teachers as one-to-one correspondence, is a huge part of a child’s development in counting.
If your child is still struggling to count accurately, you might see her race through the numbers, saying “Onetwothreefourfivesixseven!” as she hops her game piece only four or five spaces along. If you see your kids doing this, be sure to model correct counting for them. Don’t stress out if they keep making mistakes. Trust me, they are learning from your example, even if they can’t replicate it themselves. Keep in mind, counting spaces on a board is harder than counting goldfish or fingers. Spaces are not objects, but locations along a path. Counting them accurately requires a more abstract understanding of number, which takes time to develop.
Still, most kids learn to count their spaces with practice, particularly because the game gives them the perfect motivation to learn. After all, they want to win, and they especially want to land on the special slides! As they begin to see the benefits of the special spaces, your kids will start to pay more attention to their counting and become more precise.
Questions to Ask:
Once your kids are comfortable counting their moves, you can push them to think ahead. Ask them “What number do you hope you draw this turn?” They can then count ahead from their pieces to figure out which numbers will be good to draw. As they get more comfortable, they might start to anticipate their next turn on their own, counting ahead and wishing out loud for a specific card.
The other great question you can ask is based on the 7 card, which allows a player to split her seven moves between two pieces. The question is simple: "What numbers can 7 be split into?" The underlying math idea, known as decomposition, is a challenge for young kids.
This question feels similar to asking “What’s 4 plus 3?” but in fact splitting up 7 is a much richer exploration for your child. After all, there are multiple answers! Once a kid realizes there are many ways to split seven, they’ll wonder how many there are. This gets them trying all sorts of different combinations in their head, doing far more math than if they were solving a simple addition problem.
If seven gets boring, change the rules of the game! Now, the 10 card can be split between two pieces. Or maybe the odd cards can be split but the evens can’t. You have my full permission to break the rules of the game to make it more fun, and more mathematically rich, for your child. If you don't already have Sorry! you can pick it up at any local toy store or at Amazon.