Children’s Games #2: 555 Dominoes

My 6 (nearly 7) year-old son and I made up a new game today. It’s a good math skills game. The game is based on putting tiles down so that the numbers on the tiles add up to multiples of 5.

Skills your child needs to have to play this game

  • Adding 2-3 small double-digit numbers


These are the rules that we found made a game that didn’t drag on, but also meant that the winner wasn’t simply the first person to play. The winner is the first player to get rid of all of their dominoes.


  • Place all the dominoes on the table face down.
  • Each player draws 9 dominoes. Draw a single domino and put it face up in the middle of the table (the 10/10 in my example picture). The youngest player goes first.

Player’s turn

  • To play a tile, there are two options.
  • The first option is to play a single side on a single side already played where the sum of these two sides needs to be a multiple of 5. Examples in the picture include the 0 played next to the 10 on the right-hand side or the 2 played next to the 8 on the middle of the left-hand side of the picture.
  • The second option is to play both sides of a new domino (“sideways”) on a single side already played, where the sum of all three sides needs to be a multiple of 5. There are two examples in the picture: the 7/8 played on the 10 on the left-hand side and the 7/11 played on the 2 at the top.
  • After a player plays a tile, it becomes the other player’s turn.
  • If a player can’t play a tile on their turn, they draw a single tile from the face-down tiles and then it is the other players turn.
  • A sideways domino cannot be played on a sideways domino. For example, a 2/3 tile could not be played sideways on the 7/8 tile at the bottom left. A 3, 8 or 13 could have been played on the 7, or a 2, 7 or 12 could have been played on the 8 as was done.
  • The winner is the first player to play all of their tiles.

Optional Rules

  • Beginner rules – Get rid of all rules that involve sideways placements. That way you are only ever adding two numbers together
  • Sums other than multiples of 5 – Instead of multiples of 5, try multiples of 7 or some other base that is worth practicing with your child.
  • Double sideways – Allow a sideways tile to be played on a sideways tile so that the multiple of 5 comes from summing all 4 sides.

Children’s Games #1: Truck Cards

Note: helping children develop healthy attitude toward science is one of the things that I feel is my responsibility as a science educator. This post talks about the first reasonably-well thought out science (counting) activity that I did with my son back when he was nearly 3-years-old.

I’m helping my colleagues in the math department plan entertainment for the  the Grade 8-12 math contest kids that are coming to my university in a month. One of my students that is helping me plan some activities suggested this vector-teaching race-car activity. I built the track and tried it out with my 5-year-old son and it worked pretty well. It got me the thinking about all the boardgames (=board/card/dice games) I have played with my son and I thought I would share some.

Truck Cards: my son’s first boardgame

Truck Cards was the very first game I sat down and played with my son. We started playing when he was almost 3-years-old.

Truck Cards

Some examples of truck cards that I made.

Making your own copy of the game

  • Grab a pile of index cards, and a six-sided die (d6 for all the nerds).
  • Draw a bunch of pictures of something your child likes: dinosaurs, tea parties, or in my case vehicles.
  • Draw a die on each card showing one of the die faces. My son always got a kick out of how I had the vehicle hauling the die or had incorporated the die into the picture in some other way.
  • I suggest making 18 or more cards to start. Our stack is very large as you can see in the picture.

Playing the game

  • Lay all the cards face-up on the table.
  • Your child goes first and you alternate turns.
  • On your turn, you roll the die and pick up a card that matches your roll. You start with lots of cards so there are plenty of choices at first.
  • We have played the end-game two different ways. Version 1 is that if you roll the die and there are no cards left that match, your turn is over and you pass the die to the other player. Version 2 is that if you roll and there are no cards left that match your roll, you continue rolling until you get a match.
  • There is no winner.

Skills your child needs to have to play this game

  • Counting up to six or at least being able to pattern-match the dot patterns on a d6.
  • That’s it! The rest of the skills involved in this game are ones that are meant to be developed by playing the game.

Skills developed by playing Truck Cards

The whole purpose of this game was to help my son develop some of the skills that he would need to play boardgames as he grew up. In addition to boardgame-specific skills, most of the games I have played with him involve counting and other basic math skills.

When I came up with this game, these were the skills that I was hoping it would help him develop (and it was pretty successful at developing these skills):

  • Taking turns.
  • Counting: at first he recognized 1-4 on sight but had to count the pips every time he rolled a 5 or 6 and would then pattern-match with the numbers shown on the cards.
  • Good sports/gamesmanship and coping with disappointment: this one ended up being really important and is why I used version 1 of the end-game. I wanted there to be some turns where he did not get a card and had to accept that and hand the die over to me and then cheer for me to get a card. He did really well with this, but at first he always had to take a deep breath and put on a strong face when he handed the die over to me without getting a card that turn.

Some last thoughts

I have now drawn a very large number of truck cards and sitting down to draw truck cards was his favorite activity for a long time. He would dream up a vehicle and I would draw it and he would be thrilled. It was also a really great time killer at restaurants.

Most of the boardgames I will talk about in future posts are commercial games with perhaps some simplified rules. I will list the required skills and my suggestion of age. My wife runs a small daycare from our house so I have had many opportunities to play boardgames with children other than my son so my suggestions of age can be taken as broadly applicable. The games that I will discuss will all have some educational value, which is usually math-based.

Some examples of truck cards that I made.