The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Educational Value of Games

Mark Bordsen

October, 2002

Recent publications allege that high school and elementary school students' grades improve when students play Chess. If an empirical, scientific study could be performed, I believe that it would validate that claim. I also believe students' participation in music also tends to improve grades in other classes.

A number of games with intended educational values have been invented and published. The games in the 1950s and 1960s were not as sophisticated as have been the later games. Some have been sufficiently successful to stay on the market.

Some of these games came from game companies. Earlier versions of Go To The Head Of The Class had wording proclaiming the game's educational value, intended to entice parents to buy it for their children. It appears that teachers have created educational games, with a few self-published. Companies marketing a product have published a game as a means of advertising. An example is Healthy Smiles, a Colgate-Palmolive Company 1989 dental education game. Other companies served an educational niche, such as Trend Enterprises Inc.'s Subtraction Bingo in 1977, apparently targeted for classroom use. Milton Bradley published Place & Check Puzzles for addition and subtraction, and for multiplication and division in 1973 and 1974. Puzzle pieces fit answers with equations on one side, and were self-checking by turning the board over to see if the picture puzzle was correct. School Zone Publishing Company’s production includes Captain Kangaroo's Rhyming Word Game. This game seems like it would be fun to introduce to people learning English as a second language, as well as to its intended audience of kids.

Many of these "educational" games are out of print. As I add a game to my collection, I inspect each one. Some I play. I ask myself: Is it complete? What is its condition? How well does it play? And, is it fun?

The answer to the last question is probably the verdict as to what has happened to most games, including "educational" games. Generally, games that are not fun to play will not be played much.

When one of my sons was having problems with mathematics, I purchased 'Smath, (from Pressman, 1986). My son and I played it a few times. It did not interest him, and I did not find that it helped him. Perhaps it has helped others, because it is still sold.

One game that was useful to my son and me, and fun as well was Twenty Four, published by Suntex International Inc. in 1989. This game consists of cards, each one having four numbers. The object is to add, subtract, multiply or divide these numbers in order to achieve the value of 24. We played it often as a family while dining out, awaiting for the food to arrive. Although my son disliked math, and continued to have problems with it in high school, he would play this game. On those occasions when his mother, his brother and I were still calculating and stumped, his solution, announced with a triumphant "I got it!" really raised his confidence about solving math problems.

The games of Skunk and Cribbage involve adding numbers. We liked those games. My son and I also played All-Star Baseball and used that as a basis to calculate batting averages. A game that I just recently found is Spear's Games Spin To Win. I have not played this with kids aged 7 onwards, so I do not know how much kids would like it. It does require keeping score by adding.

Our family also enjoyed National Geographic Global Pursuit. One problem with this kind of game, such as being based upon world geography, is that after a few years, parts of it becomes dated, and it becomes incorrect.

A few years ago, a 4th-grade teacher allowed me into her class once a week over a several weeks period. At first I demonstrated some games of chance that were pure fun, including some that were quite a bit older than the kids. In subsequent weeks I brought in some other games that were fun, but which also required logic: Twenty Four and Mastermind were some of these games. I received a great deal of enjoyment from sharing my games, and the enthusiasm that greeted me was phenomenal. The teacher told me that this period was the high point of each week for her students.

Following is a list of games from my collection that either purport to be educational, or serves that purpose, as I have found from practical experience. Any errors in game names or companies are mine. There may be other games that could qualify to be listed here. I welcome any suggestions and comments. The list:

ADDO Arithmetic Game - Kenworthy Educational Services 1953

Answer Bingo Time And Money Game - School Zone Publishing Company

Arithmetic Can Be Fun Game - Edu-Cards Corp. 1959

Beginning Telling Time Bingo - TREND Enterprises, Inc.

Captain Kangaroo’s Rhyming Words Game - School Zone Publishing Company 1987

Count Your Change - Media Materials 1985

Countdown (arithmetic game) - Whitman

Educational Word Game - Beston

Equations (The Game of Creative Mathematics) - WFF’N’PROOF Publishers 1980

Fraction - ORDA

Fraction Bros. Circus - Teaching Concepts, Inc. 1973

Go To The Head Of The Class - Milton Bradley

Healthy Smiles - Colgate-Palmolive Company 1989

I Can Count - The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1974

Into the Forest - Ampersand Press

Know The USA - Pressman 1985

Know Your America

Learning Can Be Fun

Learning Wrap-Ups #14 Numbers

8 Phonics

13 Alphabet

Let’s Learn Sequence - The Instructo Corp 1971

Lingo - Colorforms

Mastermind - Invicta Games 1977

Math Magic - Cadaco-Ellis 1957

Math Mouse Games - Cathy Duffy 1985

Math Pursuit - Scott Resources

Math Zingo - Bowman/Noble Pub. 1977 (like bingo)

Math Facts Game (level 4) - Milton Bradley 1972

Meet The Presidents - Selchow & Righter 1961

Metric Puzzle Game - Milton Bradley 1976


Mickey’s Playground - Western Publishing Company 1988

Multiplication Bingo - Pratt & Austin Co. 1966

Multiplication Bingo - Trend Enterprises Inc. 1980

Music Bingo

National Geographic Global Pursuit

Ninety Seven - Kentrell Industries 1971

Numberland Counting Game - Selchow & Righter 1972

Numbers - Milton Bradley

On Assignment With National Geographic - National Geographic Society 1990

Orbit - Monte Corp 1963 (multiplication)

Perspectives (history timeline) - The Branch Office, Inc. 1993

Place & Check Puzzles (Addition and Subtraction) - Milton Bradley Company 1973

Place & Check Puzzles (Multiplication and Division) - Milton Bradley Company 1973

Quizmo - Milton Bradley 1957

Readers’ Digest Q & A Game - Selchow & Righter 1980

Rubik’s Race - Ideal 1982

Scrabble - Selchow & Righter 1953

Sight Word Bingo Set 1 - Frank Schaffer Publications Inc. 1989

'Smath - Pressman 1986

Space Hop - A Game of the Planets - Teaching Concepts, Inc. 1981

Spin To Win - J.W. Spear & Sons Ltd. 1977

Star Reporter - Parker Brothers Inc. 1954

SubAd - FRAL 1984

Subtraction Bingo - Trend Enterprises Inc. 1977

Sum Times - 3M 1968

Teacher’s Quiz Game - Waddington’s 1983

Teacher’s Quiz 2 Game - Waddington’s 1984

The Dictionary Game - Weston Group 1971

The ‘End-in-E’ Game - Ideal School Supply Co.

The World About Us Lotto

Tick Tack Math - Alden Games 1976 (not evaluated)

Tooth or Consequences - American Business Clinic 1975

TUF - Avalon Hill 1969

Twenty Four - Suntex International Inc. 1989

Vocabulary Building (Red Level Ed. Prof.) - Learning Well 1982

What’s That Sound - Discovery Toys 1987

Where in the World - AristoPlay Ltd 1990

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? - University Games 1992

Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? - University Games 1996

Word Opposites Memory Match - Frank Schaffer Publications 1989

Lack of company or date means it is unknown to me or not recorded on my list.

-Mark Bordsen

Horizontal line

About | Link to Archives | Links | Search | Contributors | Home

All content © 2000-2006 the respective authors or The Games Journal unless otherwise noted.