To the Editor:
I read with interest “Study: Board Games Boost Preschoolers’ Math Skills” (Inside School Research blog, Aug. 4, 2010). While the article concerns preschool children, I hope you’ll also find time to look into the massive progress modern board games have made with all age groups in recent years. Children and adults alike can learn much more than basic math or geography, without even realizing it.
How about cost-benefit analysis or opportunity cost, for instance, or probability, tessellation, observation and pattern recognition, set-building, path finding and networks, forethought and planning (and consequences!), or the use of influence, negotiation, bartering, or trading instead of conflict? The list is endless: logic and deduction skills, collaboration and cooperation, listening and interpretation skills, performance (including disguising one’s intentions), bluff, manual dexterity, and much more. All this, without an “educational” game in sight— and no dice!
OK, maybe a few dice, but most modern games do not use them. They have card decks, or tiles, action points or phases, and players have to think, make decisions, and consider not just what the other players will do, but what they value. One wins (if winning matters) by being smart, not lucky. The games do not have elimination, take between 30 and 90 minutes, and have lovely bits.
Anyone interested could start with boardgamegeek.com and the top games there. Or just try any of the last 20 winners of the Spiele des Jahres, the most prestigious prize for games. Failing that, get a copy of Settlers Of Catan, or Carcassonne, or Power Grid, Ticket To Ride, Dixit, Pandemic, Zooloretto, Tobago, Through The Desert, Lost Cities, Hive, Basari, Tikal, Expedition, Zatre ... I could go on.
York, United Kingdom
A version of this article appeared in the September 15, 2010 edition of Education Week as Board Games Can Teach More Than Basics to All