Mathematics is a core subject that is essential for kids to learn. A solid grounding in maths can help your child develop skills in everything from the sciences through to architecture, computer programming and even art. Therefore it’s not surprising that most parents want their kid do well at maths, both inside and outside school.
Video games that teach maths are as old as the hills, but many of them are, frankly, dull and boring. Nothing will turn your kid off maths more quickly than a tedious multiplication quiz or a mind-numbing algebra test!
Luckily, today there are lots of fantastic maths games, particularly for mobile devices, that are really fun and engaging to play. With many of these games, your kid won’t even realise that they are learning maths!
So with that in mind, here are some excellent maths games for kids that not only help them learn core maths skills, but also let them have lots of fun at the same time!
DragonBox Algebra is a fiendishly clever way to help your child learn algebra from a surprisingly early age.
There are two variants of the game: DragonBox Algebra 5+ for kids aged 5-11, and DragonBox Algebra 12+ for children 12 and up (and, for that matter, grown-ups!). Both games work in a similar way, but the 12+ game teaches more advanced algebra concepts.
The basic idea is that there is a timid dragon in a box, and he won’t come out of his box until he is completely alone. To make him alone, you need to remove all the other tiles in his half of the screen. You do this by cancelling out tiles, moving tiles to the other half, and so on.
As the game progresses, you get more “powers”, such as the ability to add new tiles, flip tiles over to reveal their “negative” side, work with fractions and so on.
To start with, the tiles are decorated with cute animal pictures. However, as you move through the levels, the pictures are gradually replaced with real mathematical symbols, such as a, -a, b, -b, c, and -c.
In addition, the game slowly introduces operators, such as plus and minus, as well as numbers using “dice” tiles. An equals sign is added between the left and right boxes. Eventually, even the dragon’s box is replaced with an x. So now your child realises that the object of the game — and algebra problems in general — is to get the x on its own on one side of the equation.
The games do a good job of slowly introducing each algebra technique. The 5+ game holds your hand more, as you’d expect, but both games are easy to pick up as you go along. For teachers, there’s also DragonBox EDU, which allows you to track your students’ progress, and also includes extra teaching materials.
DragonBox Algebra is a fantastically clever concept, and it’s beautifully executed. If your child enjoys puzzles then they will be totally absorbed by these games, and their algebra skills will improve in leaps and bounds!
The games are available for a wide range of platforms, including iOS, Android and PC/Mac.
Another great game from the DragonBox Algebra makers is DragonBox Elements, which applies the same clever teaching techniques to the topic of geometry.
In this game you have a series of over 100 puzzles to solve. For each puzzle, you’re given a set of geometric outlines on the board that you then use to create one or more required shapes. For example, you might be asked to create two isosceles triangles from the outlines, or a trapezoid.
By doing this, you learn both the nature of geometric shapes — such as an isosceles triangle having two equal sides and angles — and the fundamentals of geometry themselves. For example, you learn that you can create triangles from a series of overlapping circles.
As with DragonBox Algebra, Elements cleverly introduces geometry concepts without your child even realising they’re learning them. The game is also beautifully made, and very absorbing to play.
To get the best from the game, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child and work through the geometric concepts behind the puzzles. You can download an excellent parent’s guide from the app page to help with this.
DragonBox Elements is currently available for both iOS and Android devices.
SMART Adventures Mission Math
SMART Adventures Mission Math is a space adventure game that will help your kid improve their maths skills, including multiples and factors, fractions, decimal numbers and decimal places, measurement, bar charts and more.
Your kid plays the role of Junior Agent Star, a young scientist who needs to find out who sabotaged a space station, and fix up the labs along the way. There are a series of labs connected by a lift, including biology, chemistry, computer, robot and gravity labs, as well as a space equipment lab.
Each lab has its own set of puzzles to solve. For example, the space equipment lab teaches factors and multiples as you help to put space suits together, while the chemistry lab has you measuring lengths, volumes and mass to create various recipes.
The game has an ongoing storyline that progresses toward an exciting conclusion, which helps to keep kids absorbed in the adventure.
The game is targeted at girls aged 9+, and many of the characters in the game present positive female role models. In an age where girls are being encouraged to get more involved with STEM, this can only be a good thing. That said, the game is fun for boys too — my son loves it!
SMART Adventures Mission Math provides an engrossing, fun learning experience that will help your child learn a wide range of core maths concepts.
The game is currently available for iPad, Android and Kindle Fire.
Motion Math: Pizza!
Motion Math is a suite of simple, fun maths games for iOS devices that teach various different maths concepts to kids.
One of my favourite games in the series is Motion Math: Pizza! This iPad app is the most involved game in the Motion Math series. It’s a fully-fledged simulation game with a strong real-world element.
In the game, you need to run a pizzeria and make a profit. To do this, you first buy ingredients at the market, then design your pizzas, and finally sell them in the pizzeria.
There’s quite a bit of maths involved as you add up the cost of ingredients, compare different vendors to work out the best prices, and set your pizza prices to make a profit. You also have to think on your feet, multiplying numbers together to work out the prices of customers’ orders before they get fed up and walk away!
If I could make one change to the game, it would be to slow down the rate at which the customers order their pizzas. It’s quite frantic even for a grown-up, let alone a seven-year-old who gets easily frustrated! Perhaps a difficulty setting is called for.
Despite this slight drawback, Motion Math: Pizza! is lots of fun to play, and the lovely graphics and music give the game oodles of charm. If you have younger kids then I recommend you play the game with them, so you can help them out when things get hectic!
Another excellent offering in the Motion Math series, Questimate! is a fun family iPad game to help your child develop estimation skills.
To play the game, you invent questions by joining together several part-sentences, such as “How tall is…”, “the world’s tallest tree…”, and “compared to the Arc de Triomphe?”. You then need to guess the answer by sliding along a number line, or pinching to resize icons to their relative sizes. The closer you get to the correct answer, the more points you score.
You can play the game in Solo mode where you make up questions and then answer them yourself. However the game really comes into its own when using the Pass & Play mode, where you can play with up to four other players. Each player takes turns at making a question, then all the players have to guess the answer.
The available questions are grouped into question packs called Quests. There is one free Quest in the free app, with more available as in-app purchases. Alternatively, you can buy Questimate! Pro, which has all of the Quests included.
Not only is Questimate! great for improving your kid’s understanding of units, orders of magnitude and measurement, but it’s also an exciting game for the family to play together!
Motion Math Zoom
Another of my favourite games in the Motion Math suite is Motion Math Zoom. This iPad/iPhone game revolves around a fantastic idea: a number line that you can not only drag left and right, but also pinch to zoom it in and out. In this way, your kid can explore the essential concepts of place value and orders of magnitude.
The game gives you a series of floating bubbles, each of which contains a number. Your job is to zoom the number line in or out and scroll it until the placeholder for the number is visible on the screen. You then tap the bubble to pop it, and the number drops down onto its placeholder.
A really nice touch is the way that the screen’s background changes based on the current order of magnitude. For example, when you zoom right into the “tenths” scale, you see ants in the background. Zoom out to the “units” scale, and the background shows frogs. Zoom out to the “tens” scale, and the frogs gradually fade out, revealing dogs instead. This is a clever way for kids to gain a sense of relative scale.
Motion Math Zoom looks lovely, and the zoomable number line is great fun to explore. This game is an excellent way for your kid to learn the valuable core maths concepts of number lines and place value.
Maths with Springbird
Maths with Springbird is a simple, fun maths game to help kids aged 4-8 practise their addition, subtraction, multiplication and currency skills, as well as revise shapes and sequences.
In the game, you help Springbird, a cute little bird, rescue its friends from the top of a tree by flying from branch to branch. To move from one branch to the other, you need to answer various multiple-choice maths questions. The bird also collects worms as it hops up the tree, which you can then use as currency to customise your bird’s look in the Dress Shop. There are also quick bonus levels that let you catch more worms.
Once a bird is rescued, it’s added to the bird tree. You can tap each bird in the tree to make it sing, so the more birds you have in the tree, the more fun you can have making up bird songs! This is great for motivating your kid to progress through the levels.
There are four level sets in the game. “It Begins!” covers addition and subtraction, while “Next In Line” explores shapes and sequences: your kid needs to name shapes on the screen, as well as indicate the number of sides on a shape and identify the next shape or number in a sequence.
Meanwhile, “Loose Change” includes currency problems, such as identifying coins and adding and subtracting coin values. (You can set the currency country in the game options.) There are also simple multiplication questions to answer. Finally, there is a mystery “Final Battle!” level that you can unlock by completing the other levels.
If your young kid could use some help with brushing up their basic maths skills then Maths with Springbird is a fun, gentle way for them to practise.
The basic app is free, and includes the first four “It Begins!” levels. Additional levels are available via an in-app purchase, or you can grab the paid schools edition, which includes all the levels by default.
Quick Math is a series of quick-fire maths games for iPhone and iPad that are great for kids and adults alike. They help you practise a range of maths skills while thinking on your feet.
One of the best things about these games is that you write the answers on the screen with your finger, rather than typing on an onscreen keyboard. Not only is this a fast, intuitive and fun way to input your answers, it’s also a great way for kids to practise their handwriting skills, and can help kids who prefer to learn in a more kinaesthetic way too.
The Quick Math series of games breaks down like this:
- Quick Math covers basic arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It’s good for kids aged 6-12. You can choose a game that tests one of the four basic operations, or a game that combines all the operations.
- Quick Math+ tests a wider, more advanced set of skills than Quick Math, and is good for ages 9 and up. There are four games in the app. “Solve” tests your arithmetic skills, while “Memorise” has you remembering one of the numbers in one question and carrying it over to the next (I find this one the hardest!). “Compare” asks you to indicate which of two expressions has the greater value (or if the expressions are equal), and “Swap” evolves the questions as it goes, changing one part of the question each time (I find this game the most fun to play).
- Quick Fractions works specifically on arithmetic involving fractions, and is also good for ages 9 and up. The games include “Equivalence”, where you have to complete the fraction on one side of the equation to make it equal the fraction on the other side; “Comparison”, which involves working out which fraction has the greater value (or if they’re both the same); “Addition & Subtraction”, which coves adding and subtracting fractions; and “Multiplication & Division”, which — well, you can work it out!
- Finally, Quick Clocks is an excellent way to improve your kid’s clock-reading skills. There are three games in Quick Clocks. The first, “Find the Clock”, is a simple multiple-choice quiz: you’re shown a time in digital format, and you need to tap the equivalent analog clock. The second, “Set the Time”, asks you to set a clock to a particular time by dragging its hands. The final game, “Question Time”, asks you various time-related questions, such as “What’s the time on this clock?” or “What’s the difference between the clocks?”, and you need to write the answer on the screen.
All four Quick Math games look great, with an elegant, minimalist design. They are fun and absorbing to play, and the progress tracking and Game Center integration keep you coming back to try to improve your scores. These games are fantastic for helping kids practise a whole range of vital maths skills.
Operation Math Code Squad
Operation Math Code Squad is a fun, fast-paced multiplayer maths game for iPad and Android that will help your kids work on their arithmetic skills. You can play it on your own, or with up to three other players at the same time.
The story goes like this: The evil Dr. Odd has placed a series of nasty bombs that need defusing. Your job as a super-skilled maths agent is to defuse each bomb by entering answers to various arithmetic questions on your virtual keypad. The bomb goes through various timed stages and you have to answer all the questions by the end of each stage, so it’s a race against the clock. Be careful though: if you make five mistakes, you’re locked out of the game until the next stage begins!
You can choose various game modes, including just addition, subtraction, multiplication or division; addition and subtraction; multiplication and division; or all four operations. You can also choose from three difficulty levels.
The game has both cooperative and competitive elements. You work together to defuse the bomb, but at the end of the game a scorecard shows you who scored the most points.
Operation Math Code Squad is very fast-paced and can get very hectic, so kids who have trouble thinking quickly or who are easily frustrated may not always enjoy it. On the other hand, the fast pace and the spy theme — along with excellent music and voiceovers — help keep the gameplay tense and exciting right up to the last minute.
This maths game is a great way to improve arithmetic skills while also having fun playing as a family!
All of the games we’ve looked at so far have been mainly for mobile devices, but one last game — or, rather, series of games — deserves a mention. Cool Math is a collection of websites with hundreds of fun maths-related games for your kid to play. Most of the games are currently Flash, so they only work on PCs and Macs, although they are starting to bring out some mobile games too.
Check out my full review of Cool Math for a breakdown of the Cool Math websites, as well as a detailed description of each site.
Maths games for kids can be fun!
I hope you enjoyed this selection of top-quality maths games for kids, and that they help your kid improve their maths skills while also having a lot of fun! Do you know of any other great maths games that you kid loves to play? If so then I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!