Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) every November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my ongoing 2022 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students and one for Books for Gifted Children or Anyone who Loves to Learn.
I envision today’s recommendation being given to: teachers who like to engage their students with different games, families who are looking for ways to have fun together away from screens, kids who have a somewhat adversarial relationship with math (as I once did), and geeky people like me who appreciate humor, logic, puzzles, and the surprising elegance of math.
Math Games with Bad Drawings is the third book from Ben Orlin, who is also the genius behind the Math with Bad Drawings website. The book was released in April of 2022 and, frankly, I wish it had been published ten years ago. There are so many ways I would have used Math Games with Bad Drawings in my classroom, particularly when my students did their unit on mathematical masterpieces. It’s not only the games that would be a hit with the students, but the actual commentary throughout.
And, of course, the bad drawings.
As a teacher or a parent, I would set aside time to read this book with children as well as to play the games. Don’t skip the introduction because it’s also quite amusing. (I’m also pretty sure that a lot of the gifted teachers who I’ve worked with will appreciate some of the references to games we’ve played in class with our students. Escher, Fibonacci, and Set all make appearance at the beginning. And wait until you see Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe!) The rest of the book is divided into: Spatial Games, Number Games, Combination Games, Games of Risk and Reward, and Information Games. In addition to the rules for each game and illustrations, Orlin also describes, in many cases: where each game originated, why it matters, and any known variations.
This book is large (in both its length of 368 pages and its physical size), hardcover, and heavy. In the “Conclusion,” you’ll find tables that display the games listed in the book as well as the materials required (mostly pencil/paper), and the recommended number of players. (Most are 2 or 3 player games, though “Con Game” could be played with the seemingly arbitrary limit of 500 people.) The “Bibliography’ at the end is the most intriguing and entertaining bibliography I have ever read in my life. Not that I ever have read any bibliographies in the past, which just goes to show you how good it must be.
Math Games with Bad Drawings is going to have a prized spot on my bookshelf, and I’m pretty sure my family and descendants will never have cause to be bored again. I’m certain all will agree with me that there are infinite possibilities for fun with this book. Otherwise, this once-upon-a-time-despiser-of-math-turned-math-nerd will feel compelled to declare to all,