We’ll bet that when Disney came out with the movie, The Queen of Katwe (or if you read the book earlier), kids everywhere must have been inspired to pick up the board game of chess as a hobby. And it’s always great to teach kids a topic they’re interested in.
Surely, learning chess has a lot to teach about strategy, life and mental exercise. But there’s another timeless game that’s just as old as chess, with more to give. Ever thought of teaching backgammon math lessons to your pupils?
Below are math ideas you can teach kids by playing backgammon.
Teach the math of dice by playing backgammon
This can be as simple as learning how to add up two numbers. But it can also show how a limited set of numbers can create many possibilities of combinations.
This resource teaches backgammon dice statistics, moves, and odds in great detail.
So, with two dice, you have 36 possibilities of numbers. And that leads us to teaching math probability…
Use backgammon rolls to teach math probabilities
As the above resource states,
Understanding the true probabilities of dice rolls can greatly improve your tactical play, by letting you accurately assess the risk of leaving blots, and the chances of hitting and covering points. It also helps you to play strategically, by telling you how to distribute your pieces around the board in order to make the largest number of potential dice rolls work well for you. Probabilities are the secret of why good players seem to get more ‘lucky’ rolls than beginners.”
You see, math is not useless!
When you roll two dice instead of one when playing backgammon, your mathematical probability changes. As this article also explains so well, calculating probability in backgammon can show kids a strategy for determining possible outcomes. In fact, it’s a great simple way to start teaching math probabilities, or to introduce the application of fractions. They can use this information to make decisions about where to move their checkers on the board, in order to win.
Kids can practice doing math calculations in their head with backgammon
With backgammon, players aren’t allowed to use tools to make calculations – not even a pencil and paper. But as this player mentions in his ode to backgammon math, “odds and percentages” are oh so necessary to becoming a great player. But it’s not as hard as people may at first believe. He notes:
The more you do the math, the easier it becomes. It’s like any other learned skill. At first I got frustrated counting pips, and now I can do it much faster and easier…especially after learning some shortcuts…
“I hated calculating match equities, and to do it right used to take me well over 10 minutes some times. Now, I can pretty much figure out most match equities in a few seconds.”
Along with doing calculations in the head, backgammon players also learn memorization skills. As the above author explains, the more you know about how backgammon math works, the easier you can make general estimates on the fly. This is also a math skill, and a life skill for kids to learn. Once they learn principles, they can learn to apply those principles in multiple situations. Isn’t that what math tests are all about?
Backgammon math lessons get more complex as you advance your game
We’ve covered only a few of the math skills used in backgammon. However, backgammon math is so interesting and applicable to math theory, computer scientists have even studied it! And, as this article delves into it, you can see there is more to it, which can turn into advanced math lessons for your students. In life, this game can teach that while ‘luck’ can explain some things, strategy can be applied to improve your odds.
See related posts on our education blog: