What Are The Best Math Toys for Kids? – 2020 Edition
Mathematics is among the most important skills that your child will need to learn to be successful in our rapidly-evolving and high-tech world. But teaching math may not be your strong point, and you may have reservations about how effective your child’s school is at teaching math.
What’s a responsible parent to do? The answer lies in mathematics toys. Finding the right mathematics toys for your child will guarantee that they get a strong foundation for the rest of their mathematics study.
In this article, we’ll explain why your child needs mathematics toys, which mathematics toys will benefit your child the most, and what properties to look for in mathematics toys that you may be considering for your child.
- Math Toy Reviews 2020
- Our #1 Choice – Melissa & Doug Abacus – Classic Wooden Educational Counting Toy
- Our #2 Choice – Learning Resources Mathlink Cubes, Educational Counting Toy, Set of 100 Cubes
- Our #3 Choice – Math for Love Prime Climb
- Our #4 Choice – Think Fun Math Dice Junior Game for Boys and Girls Age 6 and Up
- Our #5 Choice – The Learning Journey Match It! Memory – Mathematics – STEM Addition and Subtraction Game Helps to Teach Early Math Facts 30 Matching Pairs
- Our #6 Choice – Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game
- Our #7 Choice – The Learning Journey Mathematics 30 Self-Correcting Puzzle Set
- Our #8 Choice – Melon Rind’s The Clumsy Thief Counting to 100 Card Game
- Our #9 Choice – Eureka 50 Counting Bears with Cups
- Our #10 Choice – Moonjar Three Part Moneybox
- What To Look For In Mathematics Toys
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What Skills Will My Child Learn From Mathematics Toys?
- What Are The Best Mathematics Toys For Creative Play?
- What Is The Best Way To Use Mathematics Toys?
Math Toy Reviews 2020
Our #1 Choice – Melissa & Doug Abacus – Classic Wooden Educational Counting Toy
The Melissa & Doug Abacus – Classic Wooden Educational Counting Toy is an iconic and durable math toy which your child can keep with them for their entire career in mathematics.
- Great for getting children engaged in mathematics
- Uses tactile tools to calculate
- Highly durable
- No instruction manual
Though abacuses are ancient counting tools, many children in the present day find them to be excellent ways of learning mathematics skills like basic arithmetic. Unlike calculators, abacuses show your child a counting system rather than spitting back the answer without any effort.
You will need to learn how to use the abacus to help your child along with learning using the toy. You will probably also need to arrange for a problem set for your children to do to practice with the abacus.
Learning with the abacus is great for your child’s mental acuity and their mathematical flexibility. Because it is a hands-on system, children who struggle to enjoy math when using a calculator may find that the abacus is the missing piece that they have always been looking for.
The cheerful colors of the abacus belie its durable design — this abacus will be around for years and years.
The Learning Resources Mathlink Cubes, Educational Counting Toy, Set of 100 Cubes are a unique approach to arithmetic and constructive play.
- Great for symbolic learning
- Instruction set is unclear
The point of these cubes is to teach your child how to count using symbols, much like with an abacus. The difference is that these cubes can also be used for constructive play.
When used as constructive play, your child can learn how to use fixed units like the cubes in the way that they would plan a house if they were an architect. In other words, the symbolic nature of these blocks can be a bit easier for your child’s imagination to handle in comparison to counting tools like the abacus.
On the other hand, there is no specific counting scheme that is popularly known regarding how to use the blocks to count. You will need to learn a new system and teach it to your child. This means that there may not be an ideal broadly applicable skill your child learns.
Our #3 Choice – Math for Love Prime Climb
The Math for Love Prime Climb is a mathematical board game that will teach your child how to think systematically and strategically at the same time.
- Good for two players
- Aimed at advanced mathematics learners
- Strategic thinking required
- May be too hard for many children in the target age bracket
Mathematical board games are often difficult for children. The difficulty of the game itself may prevent the child from understanding the strategic view of the game. It may also prevent them from competing on an even level with their peers.
The Prime Climb does not suffer from these issues. You will only need one child and one other person to play the board game. The game’s rules are simple, effective, and fun. You will find that making prime numbers out of the pieces is much harder than you initially expected.
The main drawback of this kit is that it does not explain to you what the utility of prime numbers is. The purpose of finding primes is unclear, which makes the entire exercise a bit arbitrary.
Nonetheless, if you can explain to your child the reason for the math concepts which are used in the board game, you can use the game to stimulate your child’s love for mathematics in an entirely new way.
Our #4 Choice – Think Fun Math Dice Junior Game for Boys and Girls Age 6 and Up
The Think Fun Math Dice Junior Game for Boys and Girls Age 6 and Up is a great way to get your child learning mental math in a challenging way.
- Compact set
- Great for training mental math
- Easy to remember the rules
- Very little gameplay or fun value
Tossing a few die is a great way to challenge your child’s mental math abilities. It will also prepare them for later in their lives when they may become interested in die-based games like Dungeons and Dragons.
The core gameplay of this game is very simple: you perform an arithmetic function on the results of the die rolls, using the colors of the die to determine the exact function.
While simple, this game will quickly put your child’s nascent math skills to the test. Your child will need some basic competency in arithmetic before starting the game, however. This game is best played with a child and their teacher or parent.
There isn’t much “gameplay” per se — the point of this math toy is pure learning rather than any kind of competition. For children who need a gamified toy to learn, this toy may be a bit too straightforward and transparent in its goal of helping children to practice the core math skills.
Our #5 Choice – The Learning Journey Match It! Memory – Mathematics – STEM Addition and Subtraction Game Helps to Teach Early Math Facts 30 Matching Pairs
The Learning Journey Match It! Memory – Mathematics – STEM Addition and Subtraction Game Helps to Teach Early Math Facts 30 Matching Pairs is a fun card-based game which will help your child learn matrices, arithmetic, and even some algebra.
- Great learning system
- Interactive and colorful
- Children find it easy to play
- Requires adult supervision
The objective of the game is to improve your child’s memory, mathematics, focus, and confidence. While accomplishing all of these objectives simultaneously would be a feat, you can rest assured that the game will improve your child’s mathematics skills.
The game encourages early learning by presenting complex math concepts in a very simple and easy to approach format. You will need to be your child’s guide, but you will find that the cards do the majority of the tutelage.
Your child will still need to move the game forward by answering questions, but you shouldn’t expect any major need to interfere. Your child will probably take a while to outgrow the lessons in the kit, as it scales from prekindergarten through grade school levels of math.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can even modify the cards to teach more complex math concepts. This set is a winner.
Our #6 Choice – Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game
Not only does Learning Resources Sum Swamp Game help to teach problem solving, number sense, measurement, and other math skills, it helps to teach social interaction skills as well because of its qualities as a board game.
- Helps kids to recognize there is more than one path to the same answer
- Develops problem solving skills, patterns, and estimation
- Great for kids who learn by touching and seeing
- You can get stuck in an endless loop, which makes the game frustrating for some kids and adults
Learning Resources is well known for their educational games, and the Sum Swamp is no exception. Basic math skills turn into a fun game in this board game for all ages. Players race through the swamp solving addition and subtraction problems while meeting exciting creatures along the way.
Two or more players can play this game at a time, which means it goes beyond math learning to also teach social interaction skills. This is a great classroom game or a nice game to play with the family.
The endless loop portion of the game can get frustrating for young players or very competitive players. Fortunately you can alter the rules, if necessary, to avoid the stress of the loop.
Our #7 Choice – The Learning Journey Mathematics 30 Self-Correcting Puzzle Set
The Learning Journey Mathematics 30 Self-Correcting Puzzle Set helps early math learners to understand the concepts of basic math through a puzzle format.
- Self-correcting puzzle pieces help young kids to understand basic math
- Bright colors and fun designs keep kids interested
- Easy to play alone or with friends or family members
- Encourages early mathematic skills
- Setup is somewhat complicated
Similar to our other The Learning Journey Match it! Game we have on our list, this mathematical matching game is great for young learners. This game helps early learners understand the basics by making it impossible to match incorrect puzzle pieces.
The puzzle comes in fun, bright colors that can help keep kids interested and encourage visual learners to retain information. You can play the game as a family or encourage quiet playtime for your child by allowing them to play on their own.
This isn’t a game that will translate well to older kids who are beyond basic math in school, but it’s excellent for encouraging toddlers and kids in their early school years to get excited about math and STEM skills.
Our #8 Choice – Melon Rind’s The Clumsy Thief Counting to 100 Card Game
The Clumsy Thief is a fun-filled card game that encourages basic math skills by utilizing a money counting scenario. Kids learn math, social skills, and the basics of finance in this fast-paced game.
- Develops strategic thinking
- Introduces finance basics
- Humorous scenarios and fast past keep kids interested longer
- Requires quick thinking and reaction time
- Cards are small
- Can get competitive quickly
For the older kiddos to stay interested in a math game, you might need something a bit unique. The Clumsy Thief fits the bill for a unique and exciting game for kids of all ages.
The game requires players add to $100 as quickly as possible out of the cards in their hands, and then create money stacks. Other players can steal those stacks until or unless they encounter a jail card and become a clumsy thief. The cards are humorous and so is the quick pace of the game.
This game received multiple awards including Parents Choice Foundation, Tillywig Toy, and Academics’ Choice.
Our #9 Choice – Eureka 50 Counting Bears with Cups
Teaching your children the basics of math and color recognition is easy with these adorable counting bears and matching cups. Your child can count the bears in each cup, organize them by color, complete basic math problems, and more.
- Helps to develop early math and counting skills
- Builds color recognition and organizational skills
- Comes with 50 total bears and five cups for extensive learning
- Not a game for the whole family or for older children
- No actual numbers on the bears or cups, limiting number recognition potential
Counting bears are adorable, fun, and easy to work with. This set of 50 counting bears and five cups can help your child with color recognition, basic math, counting, and hand-eye coordination. The bears are small enough to fit well inside of the cups for storage, but large enough for young kids to handle.
You can buy expansion packs for this set that come with activity cards to make it fun to use for kids as they grow out of the toddler stage as well, which is a bonus for parents. This is a basic toy, but one that works well and can grow with your child.
The bears that come in this set are small enough to be a choking hazard for very young kids or toddlers who are still mouthing most of their toys, so make sure to watch your child when they play.
Our #10 Choice – Moonjar Three Part Moneybox
Math is about more than just simple math, so Moonjar added the excitement of finance to the mix with this Moneybox toy. You can teach your child about counting, banking, and basic math with this unique toy.
- Introduces financial knowledge
- Builds deeper understanding of math as a daily activity
- Helps kids to understand saving, giving, and spending
- Sturdy design
- Best for coins, not paperbills
- Too advanced for very young learners and savers
If you’re looking to bring math into your everyday interactions with your child and make it more accessible, then this moneybox might be the right way to do it. This toy is more of a piggy bank with some flair. It helps to teach early financial skills like savings and withdrawals, but also about charity and giving.
Included with the Moonjar Three Part Moneybox is a sheet for kids to record their deposits and withdrawals. You can utilize this sheet to help teach your kids about finance, but also help them to understand math using decimals points.
The three sections of this box can easily separate to when you need them to, but go back together easily with the included rubber band. The three different colors help even very young kids to distinguish which box is which.
What To Look For In Mathematics Toys
Mathematics toys tend to come in two varieties: games and tools. Tools include toys like the abacus or a counting system. Games are card-based, die-based, or board games intended to test your child’s understanding of mathematical content.
Things like durability or build quality are not relevant to Mathematics toys. Instead, the principal concerns are ease of use and educational value.
Ease of use is critical because if your child can’t interact with the toy without a lot of friction, they won’t internalize the joy of learning mathematics. They will think of math as a chore, and they won’t flourish.
Likewise, educational value is necessary because there isn’t much point in playing with mathematics toys if they are not improving your child’s mind in some way. There are very few Mathematics toys which are explicitly low in educational value, however.
The main challenge is finding a math toy that is at your child’s level of math skill. Having a toy that is too easy will not be educational, whereas having a toy that is too hard will leave your child frustrated with themselves.
The age guides on mathematics toys are usually a decent ballpark figure for when you should be giving the toy to your child, but that does not mean that the toy will be of the right difficulty.
It can be helpful to test your child’s math knowledge before buying a toy. If they seem like they are competent in the skills that a toy purports to teach, you may want to look elsewhere. Your toys should aim to be at the edge of what you think your child can accomplish.
Picking challenging toys helps your children to learn perseverance in addition to the critical math skills that they need to succeed. Don’t be afraid to give your child a hint if they really can’t figure out a problem in one of the toys.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Skills Will My Child Learn From Mathematics Toys?
Your child will learn mathematics from their Mathematics toys but the specific skills within mathematics will depend on the toy. Many mathematics toys build arithmetic or basic problem-solving skills rather than spatial relationships or geometry.
Others can build skills like strategic thinking or critical thinking. The skills which your child learns while playing with Mathematics toys should be picked carefully.
Toys which build your child’s basic arithmetic skills will rarely build their higher level problem-solving abilities. Likewise, if your child doesn’t have the basics down, the higher level toys will be very painful to engage with.
As a rule of thumb, the longer it takes your child to learn how to use the toy in the first place, the more it will focus on their strategic skills and problem-solving than it will on basic math. Your child needs both basic math and advanced problem-solving, however, so be sure to pick a good mix of toys.
What Are The Best Mathematics Toys For Creative Play?
Mathematics toys tend to be weak in the creative play department, but there are exceptions. These exceptions often appear to be more like puzzles than traditional Mathematics toys.
These puzzles provide a system of rules which may differ from the traditional rules of mathematics, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that they encourage your child to think in a rule-driven framework to solve problems.
This skill will serve them well elsewhere.
If you’re a stickler for creative play along with traditional math, you can often find building sets which have math rules incorporated into their use. These are usually not very fun, but they can be very educational.
What Is The Best Way To Use Mathematics Toys?
Unlike with many other toys, your child will always need to be focused in their use of Mathematics toys. Likewise, they will not pick up mathematics toys unless prompted, most of the time. You need to develop a mini-curriculum for your child to use their mathematics toys.
You might want to find several mathematics toys and make each into a separate area of study. Some Mathematics toys could utilize your child’s arithmetic whereas others could require integrating the basic concepts into multi-step problem-solving.
Generally, you should not be using mathematics toys while on the road or when there are a lot of other distractions. Mathematics toys require focus to use effectively. If your child’s attention will be divided by other goings-on, they will not be getting the benefits from the toy.
Your child will also need to have the occasional bit of assistance while using a math toy. Math is hard, and an adult’s mind is often the missing piece in solving a problem. You will need to use your best judgment regarding when you intervene on your child’s behalf, however.
Intervening too often will leave your child dependent on you for their mathematics abilities, which will not serve them well when they grow up.