Math Designs



by Michael Wolfe

Michael's current job is as an Engineer for General Dynamics. He is an avid swimmer and enjoys travelling to far-away places.

Instructional Objective The objective of the game is to practice the rules of algebra by solving several dozen different problems.


Learners/Context This game is intended for students familiar with beginning algebra. Depending upon the school, the players will be between the ages of 10 and 12. Variations of the game would be feasible for different learners by interchanging the sets of math problems.


Rationale Mathematics is considered by most students to be a frustrating and pointless experience. A board game was chosen for this subject mainly as a motivator for the students. Games are considered to be a good means to break the routine of traditional forms of teaching. This is especially true for the teaching of mathematics. An art theme was chosen to engage another part of the student's mind while practicing the fundamentals of algebra.


Equipment The game is equipped with the following items:

1. One magnetic game board

2. Two boxes of algebra problems (500 cards total)

3. Four playing tokens (1 of each color)

4. One die

5. 72 art cards

6. 400 magnetic colored art bits (100 of each color)

7. One hourglass timer

Other items required but not included with the game:

1. Four pads of scratch paper

2. Four pencils


Rules The object of the game is to become the first player to correctly paint his/her canvas. An average game with four players will take about 45 minutes.

To Start the Game Each player chooses a color and places that color token on the corner nearest to him/her. Designate a person to be keeper of the art bits and art cards. This person has the responsibility to handle all transactions between the players and these items. Separate the art cards by color (there are nine cards of each color). Set aside one set of cards for each player. Place the remaining sets of cards aside, they will not be needed for the remainder of the game. Each card containing the algebra problems have 3 different set of questions. Decide among the players, by letter "A", "B", or "C", which set of problems will be used for the game. Select a player to start the game.

The Play The first player rolls the die and moves in a clockwise direction the number of spaces as indicated by the die. After completing his/her turn, the player on the left rolls the die and moves. Each of the other players follow in turn. Two or more tokens may occupy the same space at the same time.

The Board The playing board has four types of spaces which can be landed upon. Below are directions for each of these spaces:

Numbered Spaces

When a player lands on one of these spaces, the player must solve an algebra problem. The person on the player's right picks a card from either one of the two boxes of questions and reads the problem aloud. The player then writes down the problem on his/her pad of paper. The timer begins once the problem is written down. After either one minute has passed or a player finishes before the time limit, the person reading the problem announces the answer written on the back side of the card. The player's answer must be circled on his/her paper. If the answer is correct, the player receives the number of bits as indicated on the space occupied by his token. The space also indicates what color bits are to be given to him/her. If the answer is incorrect, play continues on to the next player.

Spaces with Directions

The player landing on one of these spaces must follow the directions written on that space. If the directions are to give up bits, the color and number of bits to give up is indicated by that space. If available, the bits can come from any stock of bits the player has not placed on their canvas, otherwise they must be removed from the player's canvas. (See Painting Your Design)

Roll Again

When a player lands on one of these spaces, he/she must solve an algebra problem as explained above. If they are correct, the player receives three bits of any color. The player then takes another turn whether or not they answer the problem correctly.

Lose Turn

When a player lands on one of these spaces, he/she must forfeit their turn. Play proceeds to the next player.

Painting Your Design There are two stages in creating a design on a player's canvas:

1. Collecting Art Cards Each player must obtain all nine of their art cards and piece them together to form their design. These cards can be thought of as pieces of a puzzle. Each design has the same total number of art bits but contain different combinations of colors. To collect art cards, players must exchange 1 bit of each color (4 total) for each card. This can take place at any point in a player's turn. The first player able to exchange bits for a card has the choice of which color set of cards they want to play with during the game. The second player able to exchange bits for a card has a choice of the remaining three colors, etc. Once a color is chosen, the player receives only that color throughout the game.

2. Painting on the Canvas As players collect their art cards, they must arrange them in a such a way that the cards will begin to form a design. It is not necessary to wait until all nine cards are collected before painting on your canvas. However, the more cards in a players possession the better idea they will have of where to place their bits on the canvas. If bits are placed incorrectly on the canvas, a player must at some point in the game correct their picture. However, this can only be done during the player's turn. A player may not roll the die if they are correcting bits on their canvas. A player is allowed to place in any combination a maximum of 6 bits per turn. This can happen at any time during a player's turn.

Winning the Game The player who completes their design first wins the game.


Design Process There were many dead ends encountered while developing this game. The first was to decide how to design the game so that students uninterested in math would be persuaded to play. I chose art as the basic theme of the game for the reasons explained above. Through the process of playing Math Designs, players might attach a sense of fun and creativity while solving math problems. Another consideration that was important to achieve was to design the game so that it could be played by students learning any type of mathematical concept (addition/subtraction, quadratic equations, etc.). All that would be required to do would be to have different sets of problems pertaining to the level of the players.