Online Math Center

Can You Win These Math Games?

Mathematics is as old as time. In our previous articles, we have tracked math theorem and calculus back to Babylonian and Egyptian scholars and now it’s time to find out what are the most common math games they used to play in the past across all civilizations.  

Mayan Mathematics

The Mayan civilization can be traced back to the indigenous people of Central America and Mexico. This mesoamerican civilization has become famous in our times due to the surprising disappearance of the Mayan people and for a long time, historians have tried to understand how an entire civilization so rich in culture can disappear without a trace.

 

Since then, archaeologists have made some progress and now we can pinpoint some things about Mayan mathematics. 

 

  • Mayan mathematics is vigesimal, counting not by 10s, but by 20s;

  • They used sticks and shapes instead of numbers;

  • A dot means number 1, a stick is number 5 and a shell is 0;

  • The dot would be represented by a bean.

 

Let’s try some Mayan math exercises:

 

  1. Represent the following numbers: 

 

  • Dot, stick, dot  = 
  • Stick, shell = 
  • Two dots, shell, two dots, two dots = 

 

  1. Solve the following Mayan math operations:

 

  • Dot + dot = 
  • Stick – shell = 
  • Stick – dot x shell = 

 

Are you ready for some Mayan math games? Click here and try to win Level 1 of this Mayan math game. 

Asian Mathematics

The great empire of China and its surroundings had in the past times a really keen eye for mathematics. Board games are really popular in Asian countries, so, of course, there must be a math board game. 

 

Two stone

A very common math game in China and Korea, this is a board game dedicated to two players. Are you ready to play it? 

 

Draw a square on a paper and draw an X from corner to corner inside the square, like this: 

math games

You need 4 pebbles or beans of different pair colors. You need two pebbles of one color, and two pebbles of a different color so you and your opponent each play with one color. 

 

Each player has to place their pebbles in the corners of the square, one at the top corners and the other player at the bottom corners. Make the first move – which has to be in the middle of the X. 

 

How to play: Take turns to slide one pebble along a line to an empty spot. Block your opponent so that they cannot make any move. When you’ve blocked your opponent from making any move, you win. 

 

Even if this board game is not directly linked to mathematics, it’s very efficient in improving spatial sense, enhancing focus abilities, and developing strategic thinking. 

African Mathematics

The African continent has delivered since ancient times some of the sharpest mathematicians; especially in Ethiopia, they would use bones, stones, clay, and mud in order to create algebraic operations and geometrical figures. 

Mancala

One of the most popular math games in ancient Africa, it is fun and easy to play. It is a board game and can be played using pebbles or stones. The Mancala board is represented by two rows of six holes (12 holes in total) and you can use an empty egg carton or something similar to replace the board. 

 

How to play:

 

  • Place four stones in each of the 12 holes. 

  • Assign, at the right side of the board, one bowl or plate for each player and call them “stores”. 

  • One of the players picks up all the stones in any of the holes on their side of the board (the row in front of them); 

  • Following a counter-clockwise movement, the player puts each stone in each hole until he is left without any stones. 

  • If the player encounters one of the “Stores” on the road, they should place a stone in their store and if they meet the opponent’s store on the road, skip it. 

  • When the last piece of stone drops in the player’s store, they get a free turn. 

  • When the last piece of stone drops in an empty hole on the player’s row, the player captures that stone and the stones that are in the hole from the opposite row, belonging to the opponent’s row. 

  • The game ends when all six holes on one side have been emptied. 

  • The player which has stones in holes at the end of the game will move all those remaining stones in their bowl or plate.

  • Count all the stones in each player’s bowl (store). The winner is the player with the highest number of stones. 


Practice math in a fun way by playing the above math games with your family or colleagues. The OMC provides resources that combine learning math with daily activities so students can understand practical mathematics. Our math tutors offer various programs, dedicated to middle-grade students, in groups, or individually. We also offer training for math competitions so reach out to us and let’s get started on improving your math!

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