Math Games for Holiday Gifts
 Date: 12/02/2013
Commercial math/logic games for middle and high school students
 Susan Milner, University of the Fraser Valley
Most of these games have many levels, the highest of which are often challenging even for mathematicallyinclined adults. Don’t get fooled by the manufacturers’ suggested age, which is often something like “8+”. That usually means an eightyearold can follow the instructions and complete the first few puzzles.
game 
# to play 
multi level? 
main features 
made by 
1 
yes 
2D geometry, logic 

1 
yes 
2D geometry, logic; not only do you have to figure out how to put the snake together, you have to decide which side of each piece to use 

1 
yes 
sequential reasoning; logic these puzzles go fairly quickly from straightforward to quite tricky 

1 
yes 
sequential reasoning, 2D spatial reasoning like Rush Hour but with an interesting diagonal grid 

1+ 
no 
beautiful 3D geometry; freeform construction involving strong magnets 

1 
yes 
2D geometric logic puzzle; bendable pieces make this game unusual 

1 or 2 
no 
3D geometry involving pentagons & hexagons; magnetic geodesic puzzle with variations


1 
yes 
2D geometry, logic 

1 
yes 
logic, 2D spatial reasoning; very good for building verbal precision 

1 
yes 
logic, 2D spatial reasoning, visual clues 

1 
yes 
2D geometry, pattern recognition; stack coloured shapes to make a given picture; appealing and easily accessible to younger students 

2 
no 
2D logic, strategy; several versions available; easily accessible 

1 
yes 
wooden 3D geometric puzzles; make the shapes suggested or create your own 

1 
yes 
pathways, spatial reasoning; connect gnomes to homes without paths crossing 

1 
yes 
2D shapes, logic; what makes this “Canadian” is pictures of moose, beavers, raccoons & grizzlies; other versions of the game (Pirates, Safari) are available 

1 
yes 
2D path, sequential reasoning; this is a variation on peg solitaire 

IQ Circle IQ Blocks 
1 
no 
2D geometric puzzles; I haven’t seen these sold anywhere in years, but they are very popular whenever I bring them out 
Petoy 
1 
yes 
3D geometric puzzles; these get nicely challenging 

1 
yes 
2D geometric puzzles; these become surprisingly tricky 

1+ 
yes 
2D logical puzzles, very visual; you can make this a freeform cooperative game for all ages 

Katamino 
1+ 
y 
2D puzzles based on Pentominoes; appealing wooden blocks; lots of levels; very accessible 

1 
yes 
pathways, spatial reasoning; connect mice to cheese without paths crossing 

1 
yes 
logic; very good for building precision of speech; you can find agespecific versions at the MindWare site 

1 
no 
3D spherical puzzle; develops handeye coordination as well as spatial reasoning; very appealing 

1 
yes 
2D geometry, logic; you can change the shape of the pieces, which makes this unusual; the puzzles get hard fairly quickly 

1+ 
yes 
patterns; can played as solitaire, cooperatively, or as a competitive game; easily accessible 

1 
not really 
3D geometry; very difficult – even the clues that come with it are hard to follow; look for the Youtube video; a similar but more accessible game is Katamino 

2 
no 
patterns, strategy; you choose your opponent’s next piece, which is unusual; lovely wooden pieces, very tactile 

1+ 
no 
patterns, strategy; fun to play cooperatively (or solo) as well as competitively; feel free to make up your own patterns! 

2+ 
no 
patterns, more strategy involved than with original Qwirkle 

1 
yes 
order of operations, logic, 2D spatial reasoning 

1 
yes 
order of operations on a rectangular grid; spatial reasoning very popular 

1+ 
yes 
pattern recognition, logic; a real favourite the original game is competitive, but it can be played cooperatively and solo (see the Set website and my “Set variations”); several versions available, including the original cards, a board game, and online 

2+ 
no 
pattern recognition, requires mental rotations and resizing; comes with several variations described by the manufacturer, all involving speed and competition; easily accessible 

1 
no 
2D geometry, logic, visual; easily accessible 

2+ 
yes 
mental rotation of 2D shapes; can play cooperatively as well as competitively 

1+ 
yes 
2D mapping, logic; several versions available, including solitaire, multiplayer, and online 

1 
yes 
3D spatial reasoning, order of operations, visual 

1 
yes 
2D spatial reasoning; don’t be fooled by the fact that it looks like a toy for toddlers  the puzzles get surprisingly tricky 

1 
yes 
2D order of operations, logic; this involves pieces that rotate, which is different 

1 
yes 
geometry, logic gets tricky quite quickly 

1 
yes 
3D reasoning; easily accessible online versions: Brainbashers calls it “Skyscrapers”, while Simon Tatham calls it “Towers” 






3D tictactoe 
2 
no 
spatial reasoning; there are various versions, including online; much more interesting than the 2D version, as you can keep playing until all the pieces are used up, then count the number of rows of three; outcomes are not easily predicted 
various, or make your own 