Our family loves to play board games. It’s a great way to spend time together, and we’re always looking for games that the entire family can enjoy together. Some games that the boys love aren’t my favorite. I play them anyway, because it’s about the time spent together. But, I love it even more when we can find a game that we all genuinely enjoy.
I wanted to share about Yahtzee in particular because of the educational value. We play games for fun, but so many board games offer valuable educational lessons as well.
The beauty of it is that I can be subtle about it, and my boys don’t think they are doing school. They are playing a game. But they are learning also–win/win!
Teaching Math Skills with Yahtzee
What you need:
Frugal Tip: If you don’t have a Yahtzee game, you may not need to buy the whole game. If you have some spare dice at your house, all you need is 5 dice, and Yahtzee Score Sheets. I love that you can purchase the score pads separately without purchasing a whole new game when they run out. We found ours at Walmart.
Now, on to the learning.
Recognition & Counting up to 30
When young players first start playing, they may need to count the numbers on the dice to note which number they have rolled. However, as they get more used to seeing those dots on the dice, they will be able to easily recognize the patterns of each number, so that they can see at a glance which number they have rolled.
Until children get comfortable with the addition, they can count the dots in order to tally their scores for several categories on the score card which require adding up the numbers on some or all dice.
Addition (1-5, up to a total of 30)
Once children get more comfortable with the numbers, they may not have to count the dots on the dice, they can begin to add the numbers. There are several categories in which this would be appropriate: 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s in the top section, and the 3-of-a-kind, 4-of-a-kind, and “chance” in the bottom section.
Once they can look at the dice and quickly see which number it is, they can begin to add them. This allows children to practice adding larger numbers, and multiple numbers (some categories require adding the values of all 5 dice), up to a potential total of 30.
Note: More addition can be practiced, especially for older children, when adding up total scores. This requires adding several numbers using ones, tens, and hundreds places. My oldest son doesn’t enjoy math worksheets, but he does like to add up his Yahtzee score.
Multiplication through 5 x 6
When a player rolls multiples, they often have to use that for a total (the top portion of the score card is 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s). Players get scores in those areas based on the multiple of the number they have rolled (i.e. a final result of 3, 3, 3, 4, 1 would be a score of 9 in the 3’s category). As children continue to play, they can learn and/or reinforce multiplication facts through 5 x 6, as the learn to quickly multiply those numbers to get their scores.
For older children, you can discuss concepts of chance and probability as you play. For example, a large straight requires 5 numbers in sequence. If a player rolls a 1, 2, 3, 4, he has only a 1/6 probability of successfully rolling a 5 and gaining the large straight. However, if a player has 2, 3, 4 and 5, he has a 2/6 probability of being successful since he can gain a large straight with either a 1 or a 6.
Obviously, there are also some more complex probabilities at play throughout the game, and can be discussed.
The game is recommended for ages 8+ My 6 year old plays just fine with the rest of the family, though he does get assistance with some of the math.