Games to promote Numeracy

National Literacy and Numeracy Week is an important event for Australian schools. Many celebrate with games and other fun activities.

Boardgames Australia encourages students, teachers, parents, librarians and game buffs to celebrate with a game – or, better yet, several games!

Numeracy can be defined as “the ability to think and express oneself effectively in quantitative terms”. It goes beyond use of numbers to an understanding of spatial relationships and symbols.

Great games exploring spatial relationships


Designers: Reinhard Staupe
Publishers: Adlung / Out of the Box (English language edition)
Players: 2-3
Time: 5 Minutes
Ages: 8+ (but playable with younger children)

Numeracy focus: Understanding of colour, number and shape.

You’ll love it because: This a game of frenzied card play. If you love Spit, or Racing Patience, this game is for you. You split the deck of cards and then try to be the first one to get rid of all your cards. You can play a card onto one of the two piles in the middle if it matches the top card on any of three attributes – colour, number or shape. Hugely fun and very fast, you won’t be able to stop at just one round.

Connect Four

Connect Four

Designers: (uncredited)
Publishers: Milton Bradley
Players: 2
Time: 10 Minutes
Ages: 7+

Numeracy focus: Abstract spatial skills, tactics, predicting likely events (opponents’ moves)

You’ll love it because: Connect Four is a well-known and popular game. By adding gravity to Noughts and Crosses, the requirement for forward planning and the ability to lay traps is enhanced. Everyone loves letting the pieces crash out the bottom at the end of a tense game!

Great games with simple numbers

Halli Galli

Also known as: Beat the Bell: Spot Five , Fruit Punch
Designers: Haim Shafir
Publishers: AMIGO/Spin Master
Players: 2-6
Time: 10 Minutes
Ages: 5+

Numeracy focus: The number 5 – adding and subtracting to make 5, recognising combinations of numbers that make 5.

You’ll love it because: Halli Galli is a version of “Snap!” where cards show between 1 and 5 of any of four varieties of fruit. Whenever exactly five of a kind are shown, the first player to ring the bell takes all the cards on the table. Just like Snap, this is a fast and fun game, and the symbols appear to very young children even before they can read numbers.

Snakes & Ladders

Designer; (unknown)
Publisher: (various)
Players: 2-6
Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 3+

Numeracy focus: Recognising numbers – on the die (1 to 6), and on the board (1 to 100). Concepts of up & down / bigger & smaller.

You’ll love it because: Let’s be brutally honest: you might not enjoy Snakes and Ladders very much – but your children will!

Number Chase

Number Chase

Designer; Reinhard Staupe
Publisher: Playroom Entertainment
Players: 2-5
Time: 15 minutes
Ages: 6+

Numeracy focus: Describing numbers and ranges of numbers.

You’ll love it because: Number Chase is a fun guessing game where players try to guess a number between 1 and 50 that another player has thought of. If they guess wrongly, they turn over the card with that number and ask a question, to help narrow down the number – “Does it have a 4 in it?” “Is it over 17?” “Is it between 12 and 35?”

Lobo 77

Lobo 77

Designer; Thomas Pauli
Publisher: Amigo Spiele
Players: 2-8
Time: 15 minutes
Ages: 8+

Numeracy focus: Great for teaching addition and some subtraction

You’ll love it because: Try and keep your head above water by adding cards to the growing pile in the middle without making the running total hit a problem number. Game play is similar to Uno, as players take it in turn to add a number card or an action card like ‘Reverse’ to the pile. The difference is that as you add a card you must announce the new sum of the cards in the pile, and if the total is a double like 33 or 44, or if it goes over 76 then you are in trouble!


Die - image from

Designer; (unknown)
Publisher: not published (public domain)
Players: any
Time: 10 minutes
Ages: 8+

Numeracy focus: Basic addition, simple probability and risk assessment.

You’ll love it because: It’s quick, easy – and you already have all the bits you need to play it! See the rules for this and other simple dice games at dice-play.

Great games for ages 8 and up


Bohnanza from Rio Grande

Designer; Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Amigo / Rio Grande (English language edition)
Players: 2-7
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 8+ (good for families and adults alike)

Numeracy focus: Trading, Spending money and giving change, Looking up tables.

You’ll love it because: In Bohnanza you are a farmer growing different types of bean, from the green bean through to the ever-popular cocoa bean. The beans are represented on cards which you must plant in rows in front of you or else trade with other players. The player who best manages their trading and harvesting of beans will earn a bohnanza!

Lost Cities

Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Kosmos
Players: 2
Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 10+

Numeracy focus: Complex scoring system with negative numbers, multiplication by 2-4 and addition of numbers from 2 to 10

You’ll love it because: In this hugely popular game for two, players play cards to send archaeological expeditions to explore lost civilisations. But beware – there is a high cost to sending an expedition, and you may not draw enough cards to recoup that cost!

For Sale

For Sale by Stefan Dorra from Uberplay

Designer: Stefan Dorra
Publisher: Überplay
Players: 3-6
Time: 20 minutes
Ages: 8+

Numeracy focus: Buying and selling (auction); concepts of bigger and smaller; relative value

You’ll love it because: Fans of another well-known real estate game will find this much faster and just as enjoyable, as they first buy and then sell a range of properties from a cardboard box to a caravan, igloo or lighthouse – or even a penthouse or space station.


Also known as: Incan Gold
Designer: Alan R. Moon & Bruno Faidutti
Publisher: iello/Schmidt Spiele / Sunriver Games
Players: 3-8
Time: 30 minutes
Ages 8+

Numeracy focus: Understanding division as sharing equally; remainders. Risk assessment.

You’ll love it because: Who doesn’t love hunting for treasure? Diamant is a fun and fast risk-taking game where players explore a series of caves, sharing treasure and trying to avoid the monsters and natural disasters that occupy them.Although Diamant is the German-language edition, the pieces do not have any writing on them so it can be played by speakers of other languages. Incan Gold is an english-language version that was ‘rethemed’ – the players explore an ancient incan temple rather than caves, but the game itself is essentially the same.

6 nimmt!

Also known as: 6 takes, Category 5, Slide 5
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Publisher: Mayfair Games/Amigo Spiele / Pando / Endless
Players: 2-10
Time: 30-45 minutes
Ages: 8+

Numeracy focus: Recognition of numbers up to 104, sorting numbers by size, estimating size of number groups, addition in scoring

You’ll love it because: This game is crazy fun for up to 10 people. Every player starts with 10 cards from a deck numbered 1 to 104, and every round must secretly choose one card to play. Everyone’s choices are revealed and then added to the layout on the table. Your card must be added to the right of the next smallest card on the table without bringing the row up to 6 cards otherwise you will need to pick up a row of cards which will score against you. Fast and evil fun, which mixes skill, luck and psychology.

Can’t Stop

Designer: Sid Sackson
Publisher: Gryphon Games, Parker Brothers, Face to Face
Players: 2-5
Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 8+

Numeracy focus: Simple addition, probability, graphical representation of data

You’ll love it because: This game will have you cheering and groaning! Each turn you roll four dice and use then to make two numbers between 2-12. The stop-sign shaped board has columns for each number, and you mark your two numbers in the appropriate columns and then roll again. Once you have markers in three columns you may only continue to add to those columns, other numbers don’t count and worse: if you don’t roll one of your three numbers you go bust and lose all the markers that you placed this turn! The first person to fill a column claims it, and the winner is the first person to claim three columns. It is so much fun that it is hard to stop before you bust!


Great games for older children and families


Previously known as: The Settlers of Catan
Designer: Klaus Teuber
Publisher: Kosmos / Mayfair (English language edition)
Players: 3 or 4 (2 to 6 using an optional expansion)
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 10+ (good for families and adults alike)

Numeracy focus: Probability, number distribution

You’ll love it because: An extraordinarily popular game with more than 10 million Catan games sold worldwide, and as soon as you have played you will know why! You are colonising an island and have to build a network of villages, roads and towns. All this construction needs raw materials such as lumber, bricks or wool, but your villages will be situated in areas that produce only a few of the needed materials. This means that you must trade with other players whose villages can produce the needed materials. Each game starts by building a new island of Catan, and the ability to set up good trades and cleverly carve out your section of the island are needed to emerge the best settler of Catan.