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Our favourite maths games

Why make maths boring when you can play a game instead?

Something that was really driven home for me during our baby steps into homeschooling was how tedious the maths sheets were. All those tasks that get carried out in school during morning time or copied from the board look like a list no matter how many cute pictures you put on the page.

Yes, these worksheets are important to include for the mind-numbing practice, and yes, there are workbooks out there that take the tedium away from the worksheets. But what if there was a different way, one that doesn't require sitting behind a desk...

While I realise that for most homeschooling families reading this is a bit like reading about the invention of the wheel ("been there, done that!"), I hope that it will help those new to the journey as well as families that are looking to develop their children's school-acquired skills without the pressure of doing workbooks and long lists of printouts.

So here we are - the games I mention here are used constantly by us and the kids simply cannot get enough of two of them in particular. They are not endorsed but rather those games that I stumbled across through friends and copious time spent browsing on the internet.

Click the arrow on the picture to see the other photos.


Up top as our absolute favourite game is Sleeping Queens from Gamewright. The kids, especially Miss 6, cannot get enough of this game and we often play it for 5-6 rounds in one sitting! The aim of the game is to wake up (=turn the face up) enough Queens to win the game. Each Queen is worth a particular number of points and you need a certain amount of points OR a certain number of Queens to win. According to the rules this varies depending on number of players, however we always play until the winner has either 5 Queens or 50 points as we have found it too easy to play otherwise.

So where is the Maths?

This sneaky game hides the maths in the way you refill your hand of cards. You are only allowed 5 cards at a time and you need to find the Kings or try your luck with the Jesters in order to wake up a Queen. In order to be able to take new cards from the main deck, you first have to discard cards from your hand. So the more cards you discard, the more new cards you get to take from the deck. So if I have the cards 3, 4, 1, 7 and Jester, I can either play the Jester and try my luck to get a Queen, or I can play the sum 3+4=7 and remove them from my hand to free space fro new cards from the deck. It isn't long before the kids realise that with a bit of luck mum and dad manage to get rid of four cards at a time and start copying with their owns sums of 3+2+1=6 or 5+3+1=9.

Beware the Sleeping Potions that put your Queens back to sleep unless you have a Magic Wand to stop it or the Knights that are there to steal you Queens unless you have a Dragon protecting them! So much fun as the kids start using more and more elaborate phrases such as "I am afraid that you absolutely may not have my Queen" just to say 'no'!

Good for:

-increasing complexity of sums

-learning to say no politely!


Following up close at number two is Dragonwood, also from Gamewright. The aim of this game is to collect as many victory points (shown on the shields of each animal) as possible by defeating the creatures in one of three different ways. Ultimately, your aim is to defeat at least one of the two dragons as they are worth the most points.

Where is the Maths?

This game is more focused on probabilities as each player needs to gauge whether or not they will be able to defeat a particular creature or not. You play a certain number of cards and you are allowed the same number of die to roll for victory. If you roll a higher number than shown on the creature card, you get to keep that card.

So let us say that I have four cards of the same colour (this is called a Scream in the game). This means that I am allowed to roll four die. The total of the numbers shown by the die has to be greater than the number shown on the creature card for me to win. And this is where mummy pulls a sneaky on the kids - I always take too long to add up my die so the kids end up doing not only their own sums, but mummy's too .... oops!

Take care - the die only go up to the number 4 even though they are six-sided, and that really threw us in the beginning until we realised that there is no way rolling with 2 die will win a creature worth 9 or more points! Even getting 8 is a stretch as you have to get both die as fours which is a one out of 36 chance...

Good for:


-sums with up to six different numbers that are equal to 4 or less


Our third game is a simple pathway board game called Sum Swamp from Learning Resources. We have already outgrown the complexity of this game but the kids still enjoy returning to it every now and then for some board game fun.

Where is the Maths?

Two die with numbers up to six and one dice showing a plus or minus sign. Roll all three to get your sum and do the maths to know how many stones you can move forward. Very straightforward. Some of the stones also make the player roll for and odd or an even number so good for recognising those too.

Beware the Endless Loop as you can get stuck there forever while you try to get the exact number of forward moves to exit it.

Good for:

-addition and subtraction with numbers up to 6

-recognising odds and evens


Our fourth game is still growing on the kids and is called Zeus on the Loose from Gamewright. They love the concept of "stealing" the Zeus figure and whoever ends up with Zeus at the end of the round, wins that round. You are allowed to steal Zeus when certain conditions are met or when you play a special Greek God card that instructs you to steal Zeus.

Where is the Maths?

Each player has four cards in their hand of cards ranging from 1 through to 12 as well as some special cards with Greek Gods on them (each Greek God has their own instructions on the card). Play one card at a time, adding the value of your card to the total of all the cards already played. So if Bob plays a 4 and Jane plays a 3, she has to add 3 to 4 and say 7. The next player, John, plays a 6 and he has to add to Jane's 7 to make a total of 13 and so on. If your total is a multiple of 10 or you play one of the special cards, you get to steal Zeus.

We are still mastering the skill of remembering what the previous person said, but absolutely love stealing Zeus from each other!

Good for:

-consecutive addition

-multiples of 10

rounding to the nearest 10


(not pictured in the slide show at time of writing)

Our fifth game is one called Unter Spannung by Amigo. This is the one that I really do pull out instead of our regular Maths lessons when we are just too tired to do the worksheets. Each card has a number on it with + and - another number (eg 3 +/- 2) and the idea is to be the fastest to put the correct answer card (in this case a 5 or a 1) on top much like Snap It Up works. We have found it the time pressure too much and play just by taking turns until the first person gets rid of all their cards. If you don't have the correct card, you take from the draw pile and there is no limit to how many cards you can hold at any one time.

Good for:

-adding and subtracting 1, 2 and 3 from numbers 1-10.

-speed maths training

And there you have it - the 5 maths games that we always seem to be pulling out of the box to play. I can safely say that we play most of the at least once a week and when we play, we never play just one round.

What about your family? What are you favourite Maths games? Get in touch and let me know - I would love to hear from you!

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