Playing board games is a great way to connect with your children and to practice math skills at the same time. Don’t do it for the math skills – having an agenda like that tends to kill the joy. Play for the sheer fun of it, and rest assured there’s probably some seriously good math concepts embedded within.
I rediscovered this recently when Thomas and I rekindled our romance with a ridiculously old card game by the name of Mille Bornes. It’s the ultimate destination game…the entire thing is designed as a road trip along which you accumulate miles. But it’s not a trip for the unprepared, for you’ll encounter all kinds of hazards along the way which will stop you in your tracks. Will you beat your opponent to the finish line? Will you have enough miles and points to pull ahead? And, most importantly, will you, at some point, get to throw down that rarest of cards and triumphantly whoop, “Coup fourré!” in your sexiest French accent?
As you may gather, the game is just silly and fun in and of itself. But a really cool fringe benefit is that each player is mentally keeping score all along the way, and the easiest way to do that is by combining your points into groups of 100.
As it turns out, the number 100 is known is some math circles as a “landmark” number: a number of great utility in mental math. Once you become skilled at using “landmarks” such as ten and one hundred, you are able to navigate easily through our number system. People who are good at mental math are much less likely to make foolish arithmetic errors. They also have a more solid understanding of general mathematical concepts. To quote Martha Stewart, “It’s a good thing.” And it’s built right into the game of Milles Bornes.
So, if you’re looking to add a little bit of zany fun to your day while boosting your math skills, check it out.