Counting with Catan; A Board Game Breakthrough

Boy Holding a blue City as his sisters set up Settlers of Catan.

I remember when I was pregnant with Owen and people would say things like, “Oh, boys are SO different than girls!” or “Get ready because it’s a whole new ball game!”

Playing Settlers of Catan with his sisters.

I thought they were crazy. I mean, I already had 2 VERY active and rambunctious daughters and I truly believed that our soon-to-be-born son would be just like his sisters…. But it turns out, all those people were right! Owen came out ready to roar and wrestle! He loves dirt and cars and sword fights… He is physical and methodical and every bit “BOY.”

Last year as Owen entered kindergarten I knew I was in for something totally new. I tried my best to prepare myself (and Him) for our academic year ahead. I pieced together an entirely new kindergarten curriculum just for him! I wasn’t surprised when I was met with some opposition from my sweet boy. Sitting still and staying focused was a hard skill to learn but we worked together and built a routine that worked for him, which included lots of trampoline breaks and a tooon of snacks.

As the year progressed I noticed there were a few areas that Owen excelled in and a few he was having a hard time grasping. One of those areas was the names of numbers. I could show him a math problem with blocks and he could slowly count it out, but when I held up a number and asked him to tell me the name he just could not remember

Until he started playing Settlers of Catan.

1st Grade Math - Learning to count while playing Settlers of Catan

Now I know what you’re thinking, Yes, my kids are THAT cool that they play Settlers of Catan at 10, 8 and 6 years old. We are exposing them to the finer things in life at a young age including, but not limited to, the best board game ever.

To be honest, it was not my idea to teach them how to play. The girls saw the box and begged to play. Daniel very quickly went over the rules and off they went to build Settlements, develop the Largest Army and construct the Longest (winding) Road.

It wasn’t long after hearing there was a prize for having the Largest Army that Owen decided to join the game. The concept was easy and he was determined to win that Army card. As the game progressed I could hear the sisters telling Owen how many he rolled and telling him what resources he earned.

But then I noticed Owen talking more and hearing him get excited… He was counting his own dice and keeping track of the resources on the board. By the end of the first game, Owen knew the numbers on a dice roll by heart and was identifying the numbers on the board just as quickly as anyone else!

Placing his second settlement and road in Settlers of Catan.

The kids spent the entire weekend settling the little isle of Catan, across multiple games, resetting the board each time. And as each round progressed so did Owen’s number knowledge. By the time Monday came around Owen was able to do math without any issues! 

You should know we’ve played lots of different board games with the kids over the years. Monopoly, Life, Chess, CandyLand and, of course, everyone’s favorite Italian mythical monster game, Yetti in my Spaghetti… but none of them seemed to trigger that part of Owen’s mind like Settlers of Catan did. I’m not sure if it was the Largest Army card or the trading and building of resources, or just that it was the right game at the right time, but something clicked and it made all the difference in the world for us.

Maybe I should have thought of this sooner, maybe not, but isn’t this the reason we homeschool? To give our kids the time they need to figure out and work through their lessons as they excel or struggle? I’m just thankful for an unorthodox option that helped Owen grasp the concept he needed help with.