Primo: A Mathematical Board Game

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Primo Board, showing the color-coded numbers along the line to 101. © Primo

I am always on the lookout for ways to help children to practice their mental mathematics skills. Children need lots of opportunities to use these skills to ensure that they have a really good grasp of mental calculation, which is vital as they take mathematics tests and also as a life skill. However, drilling these skills with worksheets can be dry and boring, so other tactics are required.

Over the years that I’ve been teaching, I’ve developed a few games of my own, but when I heard of Primo, I thought I’d check it out and see if it would be a useful addition to my teaching arsenal.

Primo is a board game designed to help children practice their mental calculation skills while playing a game of both skill and chance, based around the power of prime numbers. The board is the main draw here. It is cleverly designed to show the divisors of a number by color coding, acting as a support for those who might need a little extra help and also showing the patterns of the numbers.

Players have two pieces on the board, and race to see who can make it to 101 first by rolling two dice and using their scores to move the pieces. If a piece lands on an opponent, they are sent back to the start. Players can use all four operations to move their pieces forward and backward along the number line, meaning that their mathematical skills get a good workout.

Extra excitement is added in the form of both positive and negative cards, which are drawn when the player lands on a prime number. Some have to be played immediately, while others can be kept and played when they will produce the most reward, or the most havoc.

I must admit that it took me a while to get my head around the rules, but once I’d got it, it wasn’t as complicated as I’d feared at first glance. I did find that the difficulty of the game dropped off too early for the group that I played Primo with, as we found that as our counters got closer to 101 we couldn’t use multiplication or division arithmetic to move our pieces. However, we played with the basic rules, and there will be sets of rules available that will adjust the length and difficulty of the game. It could also be a good learning opportunity for children to come up with their own rules that extend the game or adjust its difficulty. You could use one piece per player and just add and subtract with younger children, for example.

I think that Primo is a really great idea, and is well executed too. I particularly like the color-coded board, which as an educator I can think of lots of other uses for, too! The tactics of advancing your pieces while also trying to knock others off the board can inspire some great mathematical thinking and will really help to keep those mental mathematics cogs turning. I can see a group of adults spending quite a while agonizing about which move to make to stop their opponents and also to race for the prime spot of 101. Personally, I can see myself using this in the classroom to keep mental mathematics practice fun and engaging.

The Primo Kickstarter has already met its funding goal, but it does have a few days left if you’d like to order your own game.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.