Board games that promote STEM skills

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280: Board games that promote STEM skills

Board Games That Promote STEM Skills

Guest Haley Story shares board games that promote STEM skills – and she has many ideas for all ages.

Why board games?

  • A fun family time
  • Great for summer
  • Also some solo games for screen-free time

The kinds of board games she discusses 

  • All of these games involve meaningful decisions—no Candy Land!
  • No party games or word games
  • Not only teaches children about cause and effect of their decisions—makes the games tolerable (and usually fun) for adults
  • STEM focus.  All of these games involve making decisions based on:
    • Math to optimize score
    • Probability
    • Logical reasoning
    • Computational skills and reasoning
    • Spatial reasoning

How to learn rules (parents learn first!)

  • If you (or your spouse) don’t love reading rules… Try Youtube!
  • Also, many of the more complicated games have online versions and some people prefer learning that way

Games that reinforce math facts for young kids

  • Uno
  • Connect 4
  • Darts (there are  great kid-friendly magnetic versions)
  • Rummy Cube –slightly older kids (Caleb started around 5…kids have to learn to rearrange numbers/sets in their head to make the best moves…logic and some pattern recognition (mathematical sets) and some probability )
  • Five Crowns Junior
  • Blokus
  • Katamino 
  • Wedgits building tower with cards
  • Pyramid stacking toy

Games for slightly older kids that teach mathematical logic and computational skill

These are all solo challenges, but kids tend to enjoy them, and the games come with a deck of challenge cards that begin easy and increase in difficulty

  • Laser Maze
  • Gravity Maze
  • Rush Hour
  • And others by ThinkFun–REALLY good for computational skills and logic

Similar reasoning, but multi-player

For middle school/older:

Fast games:

  • Point Salad
  • Century, Golem edition: longer game.  But to calculate your optimal deals and trades, need to scale the math of the point values for each gemstone–some are better deals than others!  Lots of optimization
  • For Sale and Incan Gold
  • Silver and Gold

Longer Games:

  • Settlers of Cata
  • Splendor
  • Space Cowboy
  • Azule
  • Gizmos: A super-fun game, though longer and more involved.  Computational thinking skills: stacking your cards to trigger multiple events and optimizing each turn
  • Potion Explosion: another longer, involved game that teaches some computational thinking and optimization skills.  A bit of spatial logic as well picking marbles from the track.  A super fun game to play with your kids: recommend for upper elementary and older.
  • Cribbage (lots of adding to 15/31, and counting/probability in odds of getting cards that will add to 15).
  • Acquire–great for introducing stock market and risks and rewards of investing, aslo with a small spatial component as companies have to be formed on a Cartesian grid.
  • Modern Art–a favorite!  You are the owner of a modern art gallery and must make money selling paintings.  But modern art’s worth is solely based on its current popularity and past performance.  Besides the super fun theme, to do well at this game players need to calculate their expected return for each card they sell, but based on the probability of what other players will do.  A brilliant game that combines bidding and math.  Downside: it’s a bit long to play, and probably will not appeal to kids who can’t sit still and strategize for at least an hour New edition.  Old edition on Ebay
  • Lost Cities and Battle Line: 2-player. Both are great for similar reasons: The scores are directly based on addition and multiplication of the cards you are able to PLAY, but players need to understand the probability of their gaining advantageous cards in time to play them.  Also need to be able to do enough mental math to decide which moves will turn out to be the largest net benefit for you in the end

Hopefully you have discovered some board games that teach STEM skills to introduce in your homeschool!

Take a look at show sponsor, FundaFunda Academy to see what they offer for online classes and web-based unit studies.

Join our Facebook Group, especially for the listeners of this podcast! You can ask questions and get advice as you try integrating technology into your homeschool.

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  1. Lauren K. says

    Potato Pirates is another game and this one teaches basic programming principles like loops and if statements. My husband is a software engineer and he liked this game for our kids when they were younger.

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