For the Love of Yahtzee!

I renewed my love of Yahtzee a few months ago, in a little cottage in Hawaii when my husband and I discovered it was the only board game in the place. We were trapped inside at 7pm every night with our three month old baby and spent many hours playing this fun and competitive game. Yahtzee is fast paced, has the chance elements of winning big but also requires strategy. During the long days and nights with an infant it was also perfect because the game plays pretty quickly and can be renewed at any time.

Best of all, it’s a game a multi-generational family can play together—helping little ones practice and learn math while still amusing mom, dad, aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpa.

Case in point, a Tuesday night of the holiday week, nothing on TV and I am going to go crazy if I have to try to find one more piece to fit in the 2000 piece puzzle on the dining room table. We break out Yahtzee and in no time my niece and nephew (five and six years old) are rolling dice, adding, subtracting, counting up score cards and having a wonderful time.



How Yahtzee Builds Math Skills

Yahtzee is not only fun but has also been widely described as “quietly educational”. It draws out a competitive spirit—perfect for young boys and their little sisters—as they throw the dice to try to get a full house, a short straight, large straight or three of a kind. Watch them excitedly add up their ‘chance’ score and you know it’s educational. For older kids you can go further with their math skills by asking them to estimate the probabilities of getting various dice combinations and help them strategically assess what their best next move would be. If the game is a little over the heads of your toddlers you can revise the rules to simply play in the order of the scorecard. First everyone should roll to get as many ones as possible (and add them up), then as many twos, and so on. You can also give each person five rolls instead of three for the large straight, short straight and full house.

Yahtzee is a great family game, and it does improve math skills. Have your children add up their own dice and scores. And of course put away the calculators!
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One other game suggestion for family fun that also requires math: Shut the Box. Six year olds to adults love playing this game. It’s addictive, portable, great for a quick ‘let’s play for 10 minutes while the adults finish catching up’ and a great time—in addition to helping kids practice math.

Shut The Box

Shut The Box

Find Shut the Box at

  • Mike

    You are absolutely right about Yahtzee being a great way to get kids to practice math while still having fun. In a way it is to math what Scrabble is to spelling and verbal skills. I’ll have to check out Shut the Box- that one looks like fun too!