We’ve chosen the best math toys and games that will help build the mathematical fundamentals for children at any age and skill level.
What if there was a game you could play with your kids that opens the door to a lifetime of wonders? That game is math, and everyone and everything in the universe plays it. If you make anything, be it with carpentry, coding, or baking, you’re playing the game of math. The toys and games on this list are strikingly different from one another, but they’re all avatars of the same vast game. I didn’t put the effort into math that it deserved when I was a kid, and it wasn’t until adulthood that I saw that math skills set you up for stronger problem-solving skills, more options in the job market, and defense against con artists. Math is everywhere, and as geek icon Jason Fox puts it in the comic strip FoxTrot, the more math you learn, the more math you see.
Introducing Math to Kids 🤔
Kids are natural mathematicians. They want to use their growing math skills to understand the world, it’s just that many times the adults in their lives don’t know how to help them cultivate their interest in math. Games and play can be a lively way to build an interest in math.
Math Toys and Games For Any Age 🎲
While these math toys and games are listed by age, we know there’s a lot of variation in math skills and interest in mathematics among kids. You know best what your kids are ready for, so don’t hesitate to use your own judgment about which toys and games are a good fit for your family. (See Making Art With Parametric Equations for a math game to play with older kids.)
Age 4-6: Counting, Shapes and Measuring
Kids ages 4-6 learn the building blocks of math: recognizing and writing numbers, counting and sorting objects, and learning shapes. 4-6-year-olds are starting with addition and subtraction, first with manipulatives like Lego pieces and progressing to calculating in their heads.
This game teaches counting through the time honored method of Bingo. Players have to match numbered tiles with the numbers on their bingo card. When you win, you get to yell “Zingo!” What self respecting 4-6 year old doesn’t enjoy yelling?
A Clumsy Thief has snuck onto the farm and mixed up everyone’s lunch! In this budget-friendly game, kids look through their hand of cards to find two cards that add up to 10. If another player has a card that will help you get to 10, you can snatch it! It’s a fast-paced game where the players steal cards in order to get to that all-important 10.
A cool manipulative in the form of a scale and weights decorated to look like funny monsters. The weight monsters have numbers printed on their bellies which kids can use to demonstrate basic math concepts like the 5 monster weighs as much as the 1 and 4 monsters combined.
This game is a good jumping-on point for the popular Ticket to Ride series of board games. Ticket to Ride players compete to build train routes across the USA. Players have to count how many spaces their route has, and need to plan ahead to make sure they can complete their routes before a sibling or parent does. It’s beautifully made and comes with plastic train pieces that kids might invent new games around.
Ages 7-9: Multiplication and Division
Kids ages 7-9 are solidifying their addition and subtraction skills, and are branching out into multiplication and division. They learn place value for ones, tens, hundreds and so on. They also learn how to solve simple word problems, in other words, how to use math in the real world.
Zoom around New York city buying Ghostbusting contracts (properties) and building Ghost Traps (houses) and Containment Units (hotels). There are new rules that make it a little different from regular Monopoly: Ecto-1 spaces move you to specific spaces on the board (for a small fee) and Supernatural Entity spaces require you and another player to join forces to defeat the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and his ilk. The game includes a battery-powered Ghost Trap card holder that makes sounds from the movies to get you further into a Ghostbusting frame of mind.
This game will give your family practice in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing in your heads. Players start with a grid of nine numbered cards. Players then find equations using the cards and shout the result. (Again with the yelling!). If you can prove that your equation is correct, you get to keep the cards that made up your equation. You can easily adjust the challenge level of Proof! by changing what cards are in the deck.
This game improves arithmetic and problem-solving skills. Players take turns rolling a 12-sided target dice and five six-sided scoring dice. Players then combine the numbers on the scoring dice to reach the number on the target dice. You then get to move one space on a scoring track for every dice you used to reach the target number. The first player to reach the end of the scoring track wins and earns bragging rights!
If your kids like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, they might also like this Greek mythology-themed card game. In the game, Zeus has escaped from Mount Olympus! Players can catch Zeus by playing cards whose numbers add up to a multiple of 10. Watch out for Zeus’ occasionally estranged wife Hera though. Her card is the most powerful one in the game, but she’ll turn against you just as soon as help you.
Ages 10-12: Fractions and Decimals
10-12 year olds learn how to add and subtract two, three, four and five digit numbers. They add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions, work with decimals, and make change. They also solve more complex word problems involving money and time.
Adsumudi is a customizable arithmetic game. Adsumudi plays like Proof! in that players use information on the cards to find equations. Each hexagonal card has a number in the center and five numbers around the edge. Players must use the numbers on the edge of the card to form an equation that equals the number in the center. Each card has a difficulty level and easy, medium, hard, and monstrously hard solutions, giving you a lot of different options to explore.
Prime Climb focuses on arithmetic and factoring. The goal of the game is to get both of your pawns to the 101 space on the center of the colorful board. To move, roll the dice and add, subtract, multiply or divide the number of the space your pawn is by the number you rolled, and move your pawn to the space with the resulting number. Like Parcheesi or Sorry!, if another player’s pawn is already on that space, you bump them back to the start, no doubt accompanied by much humorous wailing and gnashing of teeth.
A classic and an excellent value to boot! Yahtzee players roll five dice to score points with strategic combinations. Get five of a kind and you can yell “Yahtzee”! ( Yelling FTW!) Yahtzee involves quite a bit of strategy and there are tons of variant rules available to keep the game interesting.
Ages 13 and Up: Getting Into the Good Stuff With Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus
Starting with Algebra, middle and high school students move on to the fields of Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus. These fields are the foundation for careers in STEM.
The Sultan has died, and the players are scrambling for control of the city of Naqala! This strategy game offers a lot of opportunities to hone math skills. Players bid on turn order, buy and sell resources and move members of the five tribes around the board to earn victory points. Players have to plan ahead if they want to wield the power of the mighty Djinn!
Harry Potter House Cup Competition
Deploy your favorite (and least favorite, in the cases of Crabbe and Goyle) characters to the library, the professor’s office and the classrooms to learn magic lessons. Use math to keep track of the resources you need to meet challenges and level up characters. The game comes with some great props, including a plastic stand that evokes the house point counter in the movies. It is very satisfying to yell “10 points for Slytherin!” to the consternation of your offspring.
In Power Grid, players simulate building a power grid to supply electricity to cities in the USA or Germany. Players use math to bid on power plants, buy resources to fuel them, and determine the best configuration for their growing power grid. As the game continues, more efficient power plants become available, so players need to reason mathematically to get the best value for their pretend money.
Set is a classic with a lot going on. In Set, players compete to identify sets of cards that either have three of the same or three different numbers, colors, shapes, or shadings. Set is a great introduction to the mathematical discipline of combinatorics. The question “how many cards do you need to lay down to guarantee a set?” has a complex answer that might ignite a lifelong interest in math!