Snakes n Ladders the Math way

Anyone can play Snakes n Ladders? Well yeah! Who hasn't right? We must admit S&L is not precisely a math game and is something we've mostly been playing to pass the time when done with homework and away from TV. As anything else you'll find here, we've found a way to help Math sneak its way in and make S&L into a math practice activity - Gamification! Yeah!

The game of Snakes n Ladders, way older than most of us put together needs not be explained, so I'll just get to the Math tweaking.

What you need:

  • A S&L table - you can get one and print it for free from various sites. I liked this one @  
  • Or a different style of board, without snakes or ladders like this one @
  • A set of math operations flashcards with the operations of your choice (+, -, X, /) @ is you want premade sets or @ for the calculations you require
  • One pawn per player - use different kinds of beans, bottle caps, etc.
  • Chronograph (a phone timer will do)
  • a dice

How to play

Variation 1 - 

  • We keep the S&L basics, but use our Math flashcards instead of dice.
  • Place the stack of math cards upside down at the middle of the table
  • In turns players draw one card at a time, turn it and calculate the given arithmetic operation
  • A quick and correct answer is a 2 (on the dice) and a correct, but slower answer is a 1 - move pawns accordingly. What is a quick and what is a slow answer is up to you (our dear parent). A piece of advice though: always be fair with the time limit given and how you count it. Discouraging the children from playing with math is not quite the goal you want to achieve.  

Variation 2 - 

  • Place Math cards in different piles according to difficulty, easiest to most difficult, from addition to division. Print the cards in different colors for ease of use and organization
  • Color the different spaces on the S&L board with the color corresponding to the different operation levels.
  • Players roll the dice and play according to normal S&L rules. The only difference now is that instead of answering ESL or history questions in order to move, stay or get bumped up or down, you need to solve a mathematical problem.

Super Important!

Remember that when it comes to getting those math tables down, it's all about practice, and variety and variation, meaning that you'd better not practice just addition, but addition and subtraction together (or addition, subtraction, multiplication and division together), so that the brain becomes flexible and more alert. Think of it as being able to speak 2 or more languages at once and having the ability to swap between them quickly, yet being understood clearly all the same.