“Galactic Conquest” is free on this website for one week only. It’s an excerpt from Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.
Update: Because of the American holiday season, this family-favorite game will remain live on my blog for two weeks. It’s a great way to introduce your extended family to the fun of playing with math!
Many parents remember struggling to learn math. We hope to provide a better experience for our children. And one of the best ways for children to enjoy learning is through hands-on play.
This game gives students plenty of practice with multiplication facts as they strive to expand their territory and block their opponent.
Math Concepts: multiplication math facts, rectangular area.
Players: two to four.
Equipment: game board or graph paper (1 cm squares for two players, or 1/4 inch squares for more), two six-sided dice, colored markers.
Each player will need a colored marker to shade in the game board squares, and the colors must be different enough to be easily distinguished. Players share one sheet of graph paper that represents the galaxy.
Or download the Galactic Conquest Gameboard in the free 44-page PDF Multiplication & Fraction Printables file, which features two decks of mathematical model playing cards, plus hundred charts and all the game boards for the Math You Can Play: Multiplication & Fractions book.
How to Play
Players each color a large dot on one corner of the grid, as far apart from each other as possible, to represent their home planets.
On your turn, roll the dice. Using those numbers as length and width, draw a rectangle that shares at least one corner with your current territory. Your new rectangle may not overlap squares already claimed by any player. Inside the rectangle, write the area (length × width) of your newly conquered space.
The game ends when a player cannot draw a rectangle to match the dice. Players add up the areas of all their rectangles, and whoever has conquered the most territory wins.
For beginners, you can play with a partial deck: remove the cards for numbers they haven’t studied.
How Close to 100? (A cooperative game.) Mark a 10 × 10 square on your graph paper. Players take turns rolling the dice and coloring in a rectangle with the dimensions on their dice. Pack the rectangles as tightly as you can. How close can you get to coloring the full 100 squares before you roll a product that won’t fit?
Galactic Blobs: Players may draw any single, connected shape that covers the area representing the product of the rolled dice. Every square of the shape must share at least one side with some other part of the shape. For instance, a player could draw the L-shaped area of a chess knight’s move, but not the diagonal squares of a bishop’s path because those only meet at the corners.
Warp Speed: To practice the hardest multiplication facts, remove the aces, twos, threes, and tens from a deck of math cards. Shuffle the rest of the deck and place it face down. Draw two cards on each turn. Mark your rectangle, and then lay the discards face up. Play until the deck runs out or until two players are forced to pass in consecutive turns.
Dice, graph paper, and the rectangular model of multiplication make a natural combination, and many teachers have shared versions of this game online. The “How Close to 100?” variation above comes from Jo Boaler’s YouCubed website, a great resource for ways to teach math while encouraging a growth mindset.
John Golden puts a different twist on area games with Area Battle, a War-style game for which students create their own cards.