Ages: 5 and up
Cost: ~$30 - Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Math Ideas: logical deduction, spatial reasoning
Questions to Ask:
How many ways are there to get an Otrio?
What is the best first move?
Some of my favorite games can be fun toys, even if you don't play according to the rules. Kids can have fun playing with Blokus or Qwirkle, simply by rearranging the pieces in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Well, I have a new game to add to that list! The game is called Otrio.
How to Play
Otrio is a modified version of tic-tac-toe. The board is a 3x3 grid, but each spot in that grid has three options for pieces: large, medium, and small.
Players take turns playing pieces, trying to get three in a row. There are multiple ways to get three in a row: you can use three pieces of the same size, or you can make a large/medium/small arrangement in descending order.
Most interestingly, if you can play your pieces on all three options in a single spot, that also counts as a win!
These multiple winning strategies make each turn much more dynamic experience; you have to decide which strategy you are using, and you have to anticipate your opponents' ideas.
Not only that, but this game, unlike most tic-tac-toe variations, actually supports 3- and 4-player versions! The board gets very crowded, but there are so many paths to victory that you still have to remain vigilant every turn.
Check out a quick video explanation below:
Where's the Math?
Otrio has all the hallmark math of an abstract strategy game: spatial reasoning and logical deduction. You must plan ahead with your moves, visualizing how the game will develop over the next two or three rounds. Also, you must deduce from your opponents' moves their strategies and work to block their efforts.
Not only that, but it is a beautiful toy for building patterns, even if you aren't playing the game. My toddler daughter, who is 20 months old, had a blast while placing the circular pieces into the board. The pieces fit snugly into the board, which makes the game a fantastic fine-motor toy.
This is one of the first games that I've found that all three of my kids (ages 7, 4, and 1.5) can enjoy on their own terms.
There's also some deeper math in the game, which I'll discuss below!
Questions to Ask
Of course, all the classic questions work well in Otrio: How can you block me? Is it better to go first or second? Are you one move away from winning anywhere on the board?
But this game lends itself very well to mathematical analysis, and if you really want to nerd out with your kids you totally can!
First, ask your kids "How many possible ways are there to make an Otrio on the board?"
It might be helpful to break Otrios into three categories: Three in a row, large/medium/small, and all in one spot. How many of each exist on the board?
Once you've determine that answer (no, I'm not telling!), then you can ask the next question: "Which spot or spots on the board are a part of the most possible Otrios? And which spot or spots are part of the fewest?"
Once your child knows the most and least valuable spots, they can play much more strategically. By analyzing the game mathematically, they'll become better at the game! And they might just notice that math is a tool for becoming better at fun stuff like games...
Click here to buy Otrio on Amazon (affiliate link)