“Tuna boat!” I roll two dice and get two sixes.
“Give me 12 coins!”
My friend Bob (whom I love to have owe me money) passes me 12 coins so I can build my Radio Tower. I am now one landmark away from winning the game.
What am I doing? I am playing Machi Koro, a game from Japan that allows players to build their own cities based on how they roll dice. Yeah, I am a Math and Science instructor; I am supposed teach math and logic in a serious manner with piles of books, dusty chalkboards, and knitted eyebrows. However, what if I can build problem-solving and reasoning skills in a fun and interactive manner with my students? It is possible through games. I am talking about tabletop games, but not the traditional Monopoly or Scrabble (these are also great games). There are a lot of tabletop games that encourages you to do math in your head (from basic arithmetic to counting principle to probability) and strategize. Listed below are two games I have played, found enjoyable, and believe will help develop anyone’s (child or parent) reasoning skills.
In Machi Koro, each player has 5 “landmark cards.” The first player to build all 5 landmarks, wins. How do you build a landmark? You must have enough coins to build the landmark. How do you get coins? You roll one die or two dice. Depending on the number on the dice, player(s) may collect coins from the bank or from (an)other player(s) based on the cards that allow you to collect coins. You can also use your coins to purchase other cards with certain abilities (red cards occur first and allow a player to steal coins from another player; blue and green cards occur simultaneously, but blue cards allow everyone to gain coins, whereas green cards allow one player to gain coins; and purple cards have abilities that vary). So how does Machi Koro incorporate math? Besides learning how to count your coins, you also learn to: 1) analyze cost/benefits of different cards; 2) calculate the likelihood of a particular number being rolled; and 3) formulate strategies on how to gain the most number of coins during turns. For more information, check out the publisher’s website: http://idwgames.com/shop/machi-koro/
In Evolution, each player can design species with different characteristics. Everyone begins with one species and can assign either no character cards or up to 3 character cards. Character cards allow a species to: 1) gain more food (either from the food bank, watering hole, or from another player); 2) defend against predators. If you don’t want assign character cards to your species, you can discard them to increase your species population size or body size. If you increase the population size, the species requires more food. If you increase the body size, it may become more difficult for a predator to eat you. So how does Evolution incorporate science? When you design your species, you need to strategize about what will best help your species adapt to the round/environment, considering the amount of food available at the watering hole and potential threats from other players. Like Machi Koro, it also requires you analyze the cost/benefits of your species. Just like in nature, if a species does not get enough food, the population size decreases (even to the point of extinction). For more information, check out the publisher’s website: http://www.northstargames.com/products/evolution
What’s so great about board games?
There are several benefits to teaching these essential Math and Science skills through tabletop games. First of all, this gives the student the opportunity to apply the Math and Science skills are learning from their textbooks and classrooms. In addition, these type of activities tend to hold a student’s attention for longer periods of time, especially since we are usually tutoring them after they have already been “hitting the books” all day. There is also the added benefit of these board games stimulating a student’s creativity. Lastly, it can make learning math and science fun! There are games that help build English and vocabulary skills too, but I’ll leave that up to my English Tutoring colleagues. =)
Meet the author: Yuriko is a Math and Science instructor who has been tutoring at Oxford Tutoring for over eight years. Fully invested in her students, Yuriko sees her students through the demanding Math and Science courses, motivating her students through encouragement, accountability, and by challenging them to take their education into their own hands. She incorporates visual and auditory tools into her tutoring method in order to best reach her student’s learning styles and educational needs.
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