For honing mathematical and critical thinking skills, two board games—Space Tivitz, by SAS Games, and Equate, by Conceptual Math Media—get a thumbs-up.
Space Tivitz provides multilevel options ranging from simple addition and subtraction to multiplication and division with fractions, exponents, negative numbers, and remainders. The set contains 30 game sheets, a transparent Plexiglas game board with cube-shaped cutouts in a checkerboard pattern, 18 Tivits cubes, and 10 double-sided score sheets.
Two players or teams select a game sheet based on an appropriate level of difficulty and place it under the Plexiglas game board. Each player sets up nine Tivits cubes in the grids on adjacent sides of the board. Each cube face displays a number and a symbol that corresponds to a symbol legend on the score sheet. Players decide on a symbol for the game (denoting the use of remainders or negatives) and select the cube faces displaying that symbol. The object of the game is to advance along diagonal grid lines in checkers-type movements, with opponents crossing paths, toward the player’s own home planet system on the opposite side of the board. Each grid in the planet system contains an operations symbol (+, -, ×, ÷) and a number, sometimes a fraction or, in advanced play, an exponent, to insert into an equation with the number on the cube face at the end of the game.
Playing strategies involve blocking or trapping the opponent’s cubes, forcing the opponent back to the starting position, and determining in advance which cubes will yield the highest scores in the planet system equations. Once play is over, the players use the score sheets to set up their equations and solve them. Answers to each equation are totaled for a final score. Each player must check the opponent’s equations and answers before a winner can be determined; a wrong answer yields a score of 0 for that equation.
Space Tivitz is appropriate for elementary and middle school students at all levels of mathematical skill, from review of basic operations to pre-algebraic concepts. Space Tivitz tournaments are sponsored by school systems and educational organizations across the country, including NASA’s National Space Grant Foundation. Tutorials and a demonstration of game play are available on the Tivitz Web site, as are descriptions of new themes and subjects under development.
Equate is the mathematical equivalent of Scrabble. Two to four players use numerical tiles, including whole numbers and fractions, and operations symbol tiles to form horizontal or vertical equations on the playing board, which contains spaces that double or triple tile values. Each player draws nine tiles and arranges them on a rack out of the opponents’ view. On each tile a score value is indicated in the bottom right corner. For example, all number 8 tiles are worth two points. Beginning in the center of the board, the first player uses as many tiles as possible, including operations and numerical tiles and a free “equals” tile, to form a mathematically correct equation, then calculates the score. Subsequent players must build equations using a tile on the board plus tiles from their own rack. When no player can build another equation, the game ends; the winner is the player with the highest score.
The rule booklet for Equate contains clear explanations, a review of the correct order for mathematical operations, and a demonstration of operations using fractions. Sets of tiles both for beginners and for advanced players are available; the advanced set includes exponents and integers. Equate provides opportunities to master basic mathematical skills and apply them to increasingly difficult computations, developing algebraic reasoning in the process.
Equate at the advanced level, like Space Tivitz, is appropriate for gifted elementary and middle school students, and both games allow players to refine their critical and strategic reasoning. Space Tivitz is the more active and strategically challenging of the two, because it provides for defensive and offensive moves, but both games effectively teach the use of manipulatives in complex processes.
—Sarah Boone, MA
Sarah Boone holds a master’s degree in teaching and is certified in gifted education. She teaches at Meredith College.