Board games may help young children improve their math abilities
A new study has found that number-based board games like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders and Dominoes may improve the math abilities of young children, with the researchers encouraging further studies to see how these types of games can enhance other developmental skills.
Previous studies have demonstrated the benefits for children of playing games in terms of enhancing social, reading and literacy skills. Now, researchers from Pontificia Universidad Católica, Chile, have examined how board games affect a child’s math abilities.
The researchers chose board games, specifically, because they are rules-based, and the moves and changes in the position of the pieces on the board affect the overall gameplay. As such, they fall into their own category of games, different from games of skill and gambling games.
The researchers reviewed 19 studies published from 2000 onwards involving children aged three to nine. All but one of the studies focused on the effects of board games on numerical ability and mathematical knowledge. Studies that evaluated digital or physical games were excluded.
The children were grouped according to whether they played a board game focused on numeracy skills (the intervention group) or one that did not (the control group). Math performance was assessed before and after the intervention sessions. The researchers categorized the children according to their mathematical abilities, from basic number competency (identifying and naming numbers) and basic number comprehension (understanding number quantities, e.g., nine is greater than three) to more advanced number comprehension (addition and subtraction).
The researchers found that 32% of children – almost one-third – in the intervention group showed significant improvement in basic and advanced math performance compared to those in the control group.
The researchers say that their study’s findings demonstrate that board games can be used to improve a child’s basic and complex math skills, with the potential to positively affect other developmental skills.
“Future studies should be designed to explore the effects that these games could have on other cognitive and developmental skills,” said Jaime Balladares, lead author of the study.
The study was published in the journal Early Years.