Mancala

Of all the games I've recommended so far, Mancala is the one that I recall most fondly from my childhood. I vividly remember playing match after match with my friend John, arguing over strategy and trash-talking the way that only eight-year-olds can.

I loved this game as a kid for the same reasons that I love it as a parent: Mancala is a breeze to learn, easy to set up, play,  and clean up, and contains far more strategy than you might expect. 

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The 100 Game

Sometimes as a teacher, I find myself with a classroom full of kids and nothing to do. Maybe the fall musical ended at 2:55 but school doesn't let out until 3:15.  

Whenever this happens, I pull out the 100 Game. This game can be taught in two minutes but always keeps my students occupied for at least twenty as they battle each other and develop strategies to try to unseat me, the 100 Game World Champion.

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The Fold-and-Cut Challenge

Last week, my city of Birmingham was predicted to have 0.5 inches of snow, so naturally my school district shut down for two and a half days. Welcome to Alabama.

By the last day, I was going pretty crazy trying to think of activities for my kids to do, so I pulled out an activity I've used with kindergarteners and 8th graders alike: the fold-and-cut challenge

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Equilibrio

Want to hear something crazy? Back in the 80s, researchers watched a bunch of 4-year-olds play with blocks to see how sophisticated their block play was. Were the kids stacking the blocks at random without regard to their shapes, or were they using the properties of the blocks to make sturdy, steady castles and towers?

When the researchers checked in on those same kids in high school, they found out that the kids who had been more sophisticated block builders at age 4 were more likely to take higher-level math courses and to perform well within their courses. 

Seems bizarre, right? But actually, the connection between block play and mathematical ability is one of the most heavily researched areas of young children's development. Block play is heavily tied to spatial reasoning, which is how kids and adults think about objects in relation to each other.

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Which One Doesn't Belong?

This week's "game" is actually a book by one of my favorite authors and math thinkers, Christopher Danielson. Christopher is the creator of the Talking Math with Your Kids website, where he has collected all sorts of great resources and conversation prompts for you and your kids. Many of my ideas about mathematical talk come from Christopher, so if you like what you read here, be sure to check out his site.

Not only that, Christopher has a side business making beautiful mathematical toys for kids. I own a copy of just about every set of blocks that he has made, and I can't recommend them highly enough. On to the book!

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Tiny Polka Dot

Tiny Polka Dot was developed by Katherine Cook and Dan Finkel, the math teacher and designer of Prime Climb that we featured in our Holiday Gift Guide a couple of weeks back.

Prime Climb is a great game for kids who know how to multiply and divide, but Dan wanted to make a game that was accessible to younger players as well as older kids. In my opinion, he succeeded marvelously.

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Higher and Lower - Asking Questions with Uncle Wiggily

The motto of Games for Young Minds is Play games. Ask questions. So far, I've spent most of my time recommending games that have innate mathematical ideas. But I firmly believe that your children will learn more when you talk with them about the math ideas you encounter in the games you play together.

Today, I'd like to share a mini-game I invented with my son that enriched his comparative thinking, while making game time more fun for me.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Your kids are home for two weeks, running circles around the dinner table and driving each other crazy. You need something, anything to keep them occupied for half an hour. Well, not to worry! Games for Young Minds is here to help.

I've already written about SorryBlokus, and Shut the Box, all of which make great gifts. But there is a world of other games that help your kids encounter mathematical ideas that will keep their brains moving throughout winter break. Not only that, your children will be having so much fun, they won't even realize that they're learning!

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