My kids love everything Titanic: books, puzzles, youtube videos… So I came up with a Titanic Math Game, a cooperative board game that uses their fascination with boats and sinking to teach some math skills, a sense of time, even a bit of spelling and writing, if they choose to write things down. The extra bonus is that they don’t play against each other (because who wants to listen to the cries of a child who lost). In this game there are no losers (and no tears), so everyone wins. The purpose of the game is to fill the lifeboats with as much treasure from the sinking Titanic as possible. (Treasure is represented by all that loose change from around the house. I tried using pirate gems, but they were not as exciting as real money). The game fosters the spirit of cooperation. They need to get through as many turns as possible before the clock runs out, so that the treasure can be saved before Titanic sinks. This game can also be played alone (the player gets to keep all the treasure) or in a large group (since boats are not assigned to individual people, any number of people can participate).
Titanic Math Game
1 to 100
- Dice (2)
- Piece of paper (1)
- School pencil
- Coins (LOTS of pennies, some nickels, a few dimes, and a couple of quarters)
- Paper or index cards, if you choose to keep score
On a piece of paper I drew 12 ovals to represent 12 lifeboats (you can print out my template, just click on it at the bottom of the post). I suggest printing it out on blue paper, so the lifeboats can be in the water). Using a school pencil we wrote down who is in each boat. We use pencil because the names change every time we play the game. It can be family members, friends, characters from the books (Jack and Annie from Magic Tree house are frequent guests in our game), public figures (George Washington is popular for some reason) and sometimes they even use the actual names of people from the Titanic passenger list. You could assign each lifeboat to each child, but then the game would get competitive. So, we avoid that having all players contribute to all boats and just try to get through each turn as fast as possible because the more money all boats have at the end of the game, the more money they will end up putting in their piggy banks.
How to play
The players take turns to roll both dice. (Note: how many games do you need to play before kids will figure out that boat #1 never gets it’s turn? Which three boats always seem to get away with the most money?) The score is the sum of two dice thrown. (Depending on the age of your children, you might expect them to take a while in the beginning to count all the dots one by one). The score corresponds to the lifeboat # and that lifeboat gets a penny. (So, if the dice says 10, then lifeboats #10 gets a penny). Then the next player rolls the dice and so on. Once one of the boats has five pennies ask kids to exchange it for a nickel…. The boat that has a nickel and five pennies gets to exchange that for a dime… then it’s time to get a quarter. At the end of the game kids count all the treasure and divide it by two and put it in their respective piggy banks.
I like to use a clock to keep things more exciting and to have a definite end to the game. It makes them move through their turns faster. It provides for a lot of giggles as they race the clock. It also teaches a concept of time. Sometimes I say we have 15 minutes before Titanic sinks, let’s see how much treasure we can save from the sinking ship. Other times we have 20 minutes or 30. I use a real clock, not a digital clock, so they can see the hands moving, which increases the appreciation of the passage of time.
The first time my kids played the game, they needed to put their little finger on each dot on a dice and count them out loud. The second time they were capable of saying the number after a brief glance at the dice. It’s amazing how quickly they learn. Also in the beginning I had to prompt them, “Look at the boat number #3, do you think it might already have five pennies, count them,” but pretty quickly they could identify five pennies at a glance, or they could look at a boat that has nickel and five pennies and say, “Hey, this needs a dime.”
What are they really learning?
Math is a subject that should be more enjoyable than it usually is. Nurturing child’s love of counting and mathematics from an early age sets them up for a lifelong love affair with math. In particular, this game teaches counting adding up to twelve (while playing the game) and counting to hundred or more (when you count all the money in lifeboats at the end of the game). It introduces the concept of money: identifying real money, learning value of penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and how they are interrelated. It teaches how money is exchanged for goods. After a few rounds of the game they will have enough money in their piggy banks to visit a dollar store or a dollar section of Target to pick their present, figure out what they can afford and pay for it with their own money.
Note: Make a guess: how long it is going to take them to figure out that life boat #1 never gets (and never will get) a coin (since we use two dice the smallest number possible is 2).