Number Ninjas Is a Great Game for Getting Kids to Love Math

Geek Culture

My kids have been having a tough time with math this year. I don’t know if it’s the new concepts or the memorization or just the bigger homework load, but I decided the best approach would be to make math fun. I looked around and decided on three games that would hopefully breathe some new life into math lessons.

The first game we tried was Numbers League, which Jenny Williams reviewed last year. I really enjoyed this game, but I think it had just a bit too much going on for my eight year olds. Next up was 7 Ate 9, a fast paced card game that plays a lot like Slapjack, but with simple math. Again, we enjoyed it, but we wanted a little something more.

Then we came across Number Ninjas from The Haywire Group. The game is aimed at players who are 7 and up and there are two levels of play so you don’t have to be a math wiz to have a fun time. Setup is easy – up to four players take their places at one of the four corners of the board. At the center is the goal of the game, the Golden Dragon. Quest items are set out on the board and challenge cards are shuffled and set to the side. Once players are classified as Ninja Recruits (easier math and challenge problems) or Ninja Masters, the game is ready to begin.

In order to move, you must roll a special set of dice. If you’re a Recruit, you roll the red set, which consists of 2 six-sided dice and an addition/subtraction die. If you’re a Master, your dice are similar, but include multiplication. Arrange the dice in an equation and – once you solve it – you can move forward the number of spaces corresponding to the solution of your problem. (I should point out that the numbered dice have numbers greater than 6 on them.)

Your goal is to move to the areas of the board that hold the Quest Items. Once you reach these items, you must answer a challenge question to obtain the item. The questions correspond to your rank – easier for recruits, a little tougher for masters. Each question is a word problem. For example, a Master question reads: Kiku looooooooves to send text messages. She can text 75 words in 1 minute and 30 seconds. How many words can she text in a minute? Recruit questions are much easier. The first player to collect all quest items and move to the Golden Dragon is the winner.

You can also play with traps that try to block the opposition. Our house rules bypass the traps because my kids think it’s mean. (I think it takes away strategy, but it doesn’t matter – I was outvoted.)

To be honest, I enjoyed the first couple of times we played it, but I didn’t think it was anything incredible. Then a funny thing happened. Night after night, my kids started asking me to play Number Ninjas. And not just asking, but begging – in the same way they plead to watch the TV show iCarly.

How could I say no to that?

So Number Ninjas has moved pretty high in our game rotation. And, I’m very happy to say, scores at school have improved and we are back on track with math. You can’t really ask more from a game, can you?

Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a review copy of this game.

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