Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris

Ep 78: Gift Giving Ideas - Mathy Games for All Ages

December 14, 2021 Pam Harris
Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris
Ep 78: Gift Giving Ideas - Mathy Games for All Ages
Show Notes Transcript

As we approach Christmas and the holidays, we thought we'd talk about some of our favorite games that we love to gift others! In this episode Pam and Kim share what makes a great mathy game and list a few of their favorites that not only have numbers, but include some with strategy and logic. Also, don't forget to check out some of our Math is Figure-Out-Able merch for your own gift list! 
Favorite Games: 

  • Splendor
  • Multi (by joyfulmathematics.com)  
  • Prime Climb (by mathforlove.com) 
  • Tiny Polka Dot (by mathforlove.com) 
  • Qwixx 
  • Set 
  • Proof 
  • Mastermind 
  • Sequence 
  • Rack-O 
  • High Ho Cherry-O
Pam Harris:

Hey, fellow mathematicians. Welcome to the podcast where Math is Figure-Out-Able. I'm Pam.

Kim Montague:

And I'm Kim.

Pam Harris:

And we make the case that mathematizing is not about mimicking steps, or rote memorizing facts. But it's about thinking and reasoning; about creating and using mental relationships. We take the strong stance that not only are algorithms not particularly helpful in teaching, but that mimicking algorithms actually keep students from being the mathematicians they can be. We answer the question, if not algorithms and step by step procedures, then what?

Kim Montague:

So we know that not everyone does, but you and I celebrate Christmas, right.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, Merry Christmas!

Kim Montague:

And so part of that is small gifts giving. And we also love time with family. And so recently, you and I were talking about things that we could get our kids.

Pam Harris:

Comparing notes.

Kim Montague:

Yes, I think I shared with you then, that I always buy new board games during Christmas time.

Pam Harris:

Totally cool.

Kim Montague:

So we have new games to play all through the year. So we thought that we would talk about some of our favorite math games.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, in my extended family we choose, there's, I have eight siblings, there's a little known fact. And so we choose between each other, we send each other family gifts, and often we will get family games. And I always smile big when there's some kind of math involved. But before we start, let's just kind of talk about some general things that we like about games. So what makes us smile, what makes you choose specific games that are in your cart right now on your computer. So I'm gonna start, one of the things is, let me just suggest, if you're playing a game that has in some way, you have to move spaces, you have to like, you roll dice, you pick a card, it has a number on it, like the game Sorry, is an example. Choose a card, it has a number, then you have to move your game token that number spaces or sometimes you split it between game tokens, you're trying to get them home, like whatever, that those are great games to play, especially with young kids. That it's all about this one to one kind of idea, that the number of pips on the die or the number on the card that they have to move those number of spaces, that that could be a great thing for students to just like, start to mess with even before they're great counters. You could count with them. Don't take it over for them. Don't do it for them. But like, count with your kids.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

In fact, Kim, I'm remembering at one point, you got all excited when your kids were playing Monopoly. Do I remember that? Oh yeah. Well listen, I had never really examined a Monopoly board very closely. But I remember the one of the first times where we were playing Monopoly, and my kids rolled like an 11. And they picked up their shoe or wheelbarrow or whatever piece it was. And they instantly laid the piece on 11 spaces ahead. And I said, "What in the world? How do you know?" And one of my kids, I don't remember which one said, "Well, there's 10 on one side," or maybe it's 12, and said, "10 on one side. And so it's just 10 and one more. It's going to be that far ahead." And I thought, "Oh my gosh, that's brilliant." Like I've never even paid attention to the fact that the board has that, I was dutifully counting individual spaces. Each one. Yeah, me too. Me too. So parents, adults, we could do that with students, we could start to notice patterns. We could say, "Hey, I wonder, I could count all of these. But I wonder if there's some pattern on the board that can help us sort of skip ahead, or kind of know where I'm going to land." And that could be something that we noticed, doesn't have to be a big teaching moment. But it could just be you know, just something that you kind of do, maybe you play around with it when you're moving? And just like you did with your kids, that people are gonna, "Oh. How are you doing that?" Then you can, you know, have a conversation. That's cool.

Kim Montague:

And some of our favorite like school math games have a lot of five and 10 structure to them to help nudge that. But I would be willing to bet I'm gonna look at some board games that we have, that a lot of board games have that similar structure to them. It may not be five or 10, but some structure in the sides too.

Pam Harris:

And let's say it doesn't, could you count by twos?

Kim Montague:

Right?

Pam Harris:

Like if you have to move 10 spaces, could you count by twos, no matter what the gameboard looks like? Even if there's a structure just to kind of get you know, just play it, you're just trying to find patterns and kind of use them as you go. It's one of the reasons why if I have to play one of those games that doesn't have strategy, because I want to talk about strategy, in just a moment. But if I'm playing a game without strategy, at least

Kim Montague:

Yeah. there's some number involved, which kind of keeps me at least somewhat engaged. For example, I don't like games like Candyland. They make me crazy. A-they're all just luck, right? There's no strategy whatsoever. And it's just color recognize. It's like color matching. I'm like, "I don't even count," anyway, so Candyland would not be a favorite. No, no. In fact, little known fact, when I used to be forced to play with my daughter because that was like one of her favorite games, and somebody gave it to us. I was like, "Who gave us this game?" Anyway, so when we played Candyland, Um, I would rig the deck. You're so bad.

Pam Harris:

I totally would rig the deck so that we would end within a reasonable amount of time. In fact, when Kim and I were brainstorming for this podcast, one of the things that both of us mentioned is, we would prefer a short-ish game.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

Kim, how long? What's your time limit?

Kim Montague:

I've got about 15 to 20 minutes in me, like I'm not interested in. And this is tough, because there are some really good games that fit other criteria that are just so long, so long. Like my, one of my son's loves the game Risk.

Pam Harris:

Oh!

Kim Montague:

I don't know if you know, Risk, but it's involved. It involves multi days.

Pam Harris:

It's a days long game. It's so long.

Kim Montague:

Yeah. 15 or 20.

Pam Harris:

So I can't. Yeah, when my kids are playing Risk, I walk out. I'm like, "Have fun." So y'all, if you like long games, go for it. Kim and I both prefer games are kind of snappy, they kind of happen. But we also really like games that involve strategy, which can be longer. And at least if they have strategy, I'm willing to hang with them a little bit longer. So we look for things that are...

Kim Montague:

Well, because it's more interesting.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, for sure. It's not just so much chance. Neither of us really like chance so much. I mean, you could have conversations about probability when there's chance games, you can do that. We sort of prefer games where there's strategy. We like to talk about strategy. So I'll bring up a game that my brother bought us a couple years ago. So Thanks, Brad, for that. It's called Splendor. And Splendor has a little bit of math in there. There's some points that you have to add up. And there's definitely strategy in how you go about acquiring the points. And it's not a bad game for even young learners. Because you're only acquiring like 15 points. And so it's not like you're adding a lot of points. But the strategy about how to acquire the points, we're still figuring out. So now don't judge me if you're an expert, Splendor player. But as a family, we're still like, "Is this the better route to go?" And one of the reasons that we know that is my oldest was irritated one day, because he's like, "This cannot be a strategy game, because Abby keeps winning."

Kim Montague:

Oh.

Pam Harris:

And I'm like, "You can't say, Yeah, did you, stop that right." And he apologized. I mean, he was kind of kidding, a little bit. Um, but Abby had found like a winning strategy right off the bat, and won all the games. And it was kind of funny.

Kim Montague:

For real.

Pam Harris:

So we're all kind of like, and then we tweaked it a

Kim Montague:

I've never heard of that game. It's going on my list, little bit. We've maybe found a slightly better one. And anyway, so strategy can be really helpful and make it more interesting.

Pam Harris:

You might try it. There you go.

Kim Montague:

Going on my list. Writing it down.

Pam Harris:

Hey, we also like games that there aren't too many

Kim Montague:

Yeah, I have. There's one person in that rules, especially for younger learners. We would suggest that as you look at a gift giving ideas, that you look for games that you can kind of, you know, like get into and find some success without, like having to memorize all of the rules. We recognize some people like that. Some people like games where there's like, tons and tons. But as you look for young learners, maybe consider that sometimes just a game that you can dive into with fewer rules that might be kind of helpful. group, that if we're going to play game night, we hand the rulebook to that person. And they're the reader while we have dinner, and then we get them. Yeah, not. Not when I'm learning a game.

Pam Harris:

Yeah, there you go. And if somebody is explaining it, that's totally easier than reading a rulebook for sure.

Kim Montague:

We have one other thing that we want to maybe mention that, especially with our young learners, that sometimes parents, especially if you're like me, and you want to play 15 to 20 minutes, we have a tendency to dive in, maybe when we're playing games. And so this that we love is, "Do you need time, or help?" And we've said that many times before, probably, but this is completely applicable in game playing, to ask before you dive in and try to rescue somebody, "Do you need time? Or do you need help?" And then give whichever they prefer.

Pam Harris:

So rather than taking over, "Here make this move," or "You made that dumb move," or you know, whatever, or making it all about speed. Now obviously, there's some games that are all about speed. I don't know, if it's all about speed, that's one thing. But if it's not all about speed, maybe don't make it all about speed. Maybe give your child or your student or whatever, time to think, time to strategize, time to compute. In fact, a friend of mine, the other day we were talking about, she said to me, "Hey, I did your thing." And I was like, "What's my thing?" She said, "We're playing a game as a family. And I tried to add up the numbers, thinking about them instead of..." and they were playing Yahtzee. So in Yahtzee, you have these scores, and you're trying to see who gets the highest scores. And she said at the end of the game, she was adding all the scores, she kind of laughed. She's like, "There's a lot of adding to do at that point." And it was kind of interesting to me when she said, "I did your thing." And I was like, "Well, what do you mean? Like what would what would have been the other way that you could have done it?" And she said, "Well, I would have lined them all up and then I would have just done the columns of digits and instead I was looking for like friendly combinations that I could pull together." And she said, "But I'll be honest with you, everybody was kind of staring at me. And so then I just kind of did the old way, because I knew that I could do it, and it would freak me out." And I said, "Hey, I wonder, if you just ask them, if you just said to them, 'Hey, how would you add these up? Or let's talk about our strategy, adding these up.' if you made it a thing, and you knew it wasn't time, like, if there wasn't time involved? Do you think you would have been able to use those friendly combinations?" And she just, you can almost see her relaxed. She just took a big deep breath. And she goes, "God, I just had time. Yeah." And I was like, "Give yourself the time. It's okay." You know like, so anyway, people out there, as you think about playing games at the holidays, maybe consider if time isn't like an integral part of the game. Maybe it could just give everybody a little bit of time to think and maybe that would give them more confidence that they could actually think and reason and build connections, build mental connections in their head, make it all more fun.

Kim Montague:

So you just mentioned Splendor, earlier. And we have also before mentioned two of our very, very favorite games.

Pam Harris:

Absolutely.

Kim Montague:

So we're not going to spend a lot of time talking about them, but Prime Climb and Multi are two of our favorites. And actually, I think you just looked up Multi, right?

Pam Harris:

I did.

Kim Montague:

It's so popular.

Pam Harris:

Yeah. In fact, Kim had already purchased it for her kids. And so this year when I was looking at gifts for mine, I was like, "Hey, I'm gonna buy Multi. And I got on and Amazon was out of stock. And I got on people that actually make it, sorry I can't remember who they are right now. We'll put that in the show notes. And it was out of stock. And I was like, "Well, I'm checking back." So it's a very popular. Multi is a popular game, but check that one out. Prime Climb, we really liked the math for love folks wrote, created Prime Climb, we really appreciate them. And Prime Climb it's a great game. While we're talking about Prime Climb, we'll also say for young learners, they have a game called Tiny Polka Dot. Yeah. Which is amazing. Because it's not just a game. It's lots of games in one. And so if you have younger learners, from like, young young kids all the way up through golly, I think they go. Now I'm probably gonna say the wrong age, but eight to 10 I think. I think most of the games are more like for four to five, six, though I could be wrong. But definitely young learners, Tiny Polka Dot's got lots of great games in one package. So definitely check that out.

Kim Montague:

Yep. So I'm not gonna do a really good job explaining this game. But so there's, listeners, you're just gonna have to take my word for it. But there's a game called Qwixx Q, W, I, X, X. It's a small package. Essentially, you roll a collection of dice. They have different colors to them. And you have a game sheet, and you roll the dice, and you add two of the dice together, and you mark off on the sheet which one you want to use. You don't want to use too large of a number right away, because then it cuts out all the smaller numbers. It's a horrible explanation. I'm very sorry about that. But this game has been so much fun. I play with both my fifth grader and eighth grader. They both love it. And they played, Gosh, several years ago. So it's, I would say pretty early on that maybe second third grade, you could start playing. It's quick, which I love. And it's fun. And there's definitely a lot of math to it.

Pam Harris:

Cool, and it's called Qwixx, so that's a good one. So I'll bring up another one that I really like. It's called Set, S, E, T, Set. Lots of levels can play this game. But I find it fun. And I find it also a game that I can kind of talk while we're playing. But it has everything to do, and there's no numbers at all. Ah, no numbers, there's no numerals for sure. But it's a card game. And you lay out cards, and you're looking to create a set. And a set of three cards consists of three cards that have, they have several attributes on the cards, and you either want each of the three cards to have all the same attribute or they all have to be different. And it's just really a good sort of logic game. And lots of levels can play it because young kids can be successful. Again, be really kind of careful with the time thing. I like to play cooperatively at first when I play, especially with younger learners, and by younger I mean anybody not an adult, when I say that right there. So like I play with teens all the time in our church youth group and I'll just, we'll sort of play cooperatively first until it kind of everybody gets the hang of it. And then you can play competitively if you want to but almost everybody finds it interesting. I was looking the other day, because I might get, there's a different version out now. And there's a junior version of Set which soon as I get some grandkids man, that one. So that one's definitely on the list when we get some younger grandkids running around here.

Kim Montague:

That's so funny that you just made a couple of comments about Set that are also what I do with this game that I'm gonna mention next. Proof is what it's called. There, it, I think the box says the fast paced mental math game. And so originally I was like, there's no way, I'm not... That sounds like I'm not into it. But I looked into it a little bit further. And...

Pam Harris:

Because fast paced mental math is not your jam? Like what?

Kim Montague:

Yes, because that's not what I'm about. Right? It's not about fast paced. Oh, it's a fast. I gotcha, Okay. So when I first saw the box, I thought, 'Um, I'm not going to be into that." But I'm so glad that I looked a little bit more closely at it, because it has been such a great game for us. And we just literally take the time component out, we take turns rather than race each other. And so this game is completely based on number, and you make like a four by four array, or a five by five array, whatever actually says to do. And on every card, it has a different number 50, 29. 27, whatever. And the idea is that you create an equation based on the numbers that are laid out. So like if a 19 and an 81 and a 100 are laid out, then you would say 19 plus 81 is 100. And you collect those cards. You can use any operation you want, you can declare that it has parentheses or not. There's a whole, you know, I have kids that are interested in that kind of thing. And so we have gone down the, there's a point system, of how many points you can get for different things. We haven't even explored all the different levels that you could play at this point. But it's been such a fun game for us to just brainstorm just different equations. And as my younger son has gotten into exponents and things like that, he will involve those as well. So super fun. I took it up to school one time, and we just put it on a board and lots of kids just stood around brainstorming with each other what they could come up with.

Pam Harris:

Cool, cool, so definitely more of a mathy game.

Kim Montague:

Yeah.

Pam Harris:

Whereas like Set is more of a logic sort of game. So that's good to know. You know, you kind of know what you're headed for this year.

Kim Montague:

Yep.

Pam Harris:

So another less mathy, but more logic game that I'm going to suggest is an oldie but a goodie. And it's called Mastermind. Yes. I remember one point saying something about Mastermind, and Kim was like, "Oh, I love that game." And I was like, "Man, we should play some time." I honestly, I have a harder time getting my kids to play Mastermind with me. I'm not sure what that is. But I love it. I get my husband to play with me. I definitely grab friends whenever I can. I now have two daughters-in-law. So we'll see. I'll be trying to talk them into that this Christmas. But we really like Mastermind. It's a great logic. There's a code creator, and then the code breaker. And there's some really nice things that you can do with... why are you laughing?

Kim Montague:

Because my role is always to create the code because my kids want to break the code. And so less involved game for me. I create it and then I just have to watch them play. Love it.

Pam Harris:

Fun. You don't mind that?

Kim Montague:

I do not. No, I don't mind. I love it.

Pam Harris:

There you go. Alright, Kim. What's one more game that you want to throw out?

Kim Montague:

Okay, so the last game that I think I'm going to mention is called Sequence. And again, I'm going to do a horrible job explaining it so y'all just check it out. But it comes with a giant game board that has playing cards drawn on to the game board, and you are dealt playing cards. And so you have like seven cards, and you put a tile where you match your playing card with the playing card on the board. And your job is to make a row of five either one row five, two rows of five, three rows of five, depending on how many players are playing. Super, super great with strategy and blocking other players, considering where you want to move, because there are two of each card on the board. And so you have to try to decide, like am I blocking or am I... there's a jacks. One-eyed jacks you can remove. Two-eyed jacks are wild. Again, just lots of strategy involved in that.

Pam Harris:

Nice, cool.

Kim Montague:

Yep.

Pam Harris:

Alright before we're done, we want to mention a few games, particularly for young learners. We already mentioned Tiny Polka Dot that is a collection of games. We really like. It's great. There's a game called Rack-O that's all about ordering numbers. That's not tiny, tiny, but it's as soon as kids can kind of read double digit numbers and start ordering them. That kind of makes sense. I like the game High Ho Cherry O. That's an oldie. I played that as a kid. It's still out there. They have some new updated versions these days. You, I think, spin a spinner and then you either add fruit to your basket or you take fruit out of your basket. And it's just great for sort of that one to one kind of thing. I've got to match the fruit that I put in the basket or you know that with the number that I spun versus the number that I take out and all that. And then like I mentioned before, anything that moves spaces where you can sort of count with your child is a fine sort of game that we would recommend. Can help kids just learn the counting sequence. Totally cool. We hope that y'all will think about giving games this Christmas and maybe one or two of them with a bit more of a strategy, mathy component to it might bean order if you're doing that kind of thing this holiday season.

Kim Montague:

You know, I'm super interested in always finding out about more games. So you know, if you've got a great game that you think that we would be interested in, I'd like to hear about that. I don't know, maybe email me at Kim@MathisFigureOutAble. Maybe you can share that with us on Twitter. But I'm always interested in learning more and more games.

Pam Harris:

And we'll definitely do another game episode sometimes. So yeah, send us those and we will tell the world about new and better and cool games that everybody can have fun with.

Kim Montague:

And while you're buying gifts for your loved ones, don't forget to check out your Math is Figure-Out-Able merch on your list. Maybe you're asking for that to be on your list this year. In case you haven't heard, there's a t-shirt, tote bag, mug and a Math is Figure-Out-Able sticker that you can place on your laptop or wherever you spread the word.

Pam Harris:

So let's help everybody know that Math is Figure-Out-Able, By buying some of that Math is Figure-Out-Able merch if that makes sense for you. So, if you want to learn more mathematics and refine your math teaching so that you and students are mathematizing more and more, then join the Math is Figure-Out-Able movement and help us spread the word. That Math is Figure-Out-Able.