SimplyFun Expanders math game [Review]

I've often written about how important it is that learning be an enjoyable experience for children, and games like Expanders from SimplyFun are a fun and effective way for kids to exercise their math skills.


SimplyFun is an award winning company recognized for their educational games that help children develop language, math skills, spatial reasoning, and critical thinking skills, while also encouraging families to spend time together learning and playing.

We received Expanders for review. In about 10 minutes we went from opening the box to playing the game. The game teaches and exercises critical thinking, spatial reasoning, addition math facts through 12, and reverse addition. Reverse addition is when you have the sum and you work backwards to find the addends. Since subtraction can also be taught with reverse addition, you can add that to the math skills kids can assimilate while playing Expanders.

First, you open up the Mainframe and place the numbered board strips (called Circuit Boards) inside it according to the child's skill level. The easier side uses numerals 1-8, and the more difficult level uses numerals 1-12. With each game the board can change and players can't memorize it - it's a new challenge every time. There are two blank Circuit Board Fillers so that you can adjust the length of the game according to how many players you have. If two are playing, you use four Circuit Boards and two Fillers. With three players, use five Circuit Boards and two blank, and for four players, use them all.

The colored Expander Tokens are clear so you can see the numerals through them, and each player picks a color. There are specific instructions for the first three moves, and after that, the goal of the game is to use up all your tokens creating reverse addition problems in a row or diagonally. The more numbers you use to make math problems, the more tokens you will use up.

This game involves more than just being able to add numbers though - the point is to expand a math fact to use as many tokens as possible. So instead of just covering 12, 7, and 5 (to represent 12=7+5), a player looks for 12=5+5+2 or 12=3+2+2+5. You can also play strategically by trying to limit where your opponents can place their tokens.

Expanders can be purchased for $34 (+shipping), but from now until July 31st, you can use coupon code SHREVIEW to receive 15% off your first purchase of any game in the SimplyFun catalog. As a homeschooler, you can join SimplyFun for $19 ayear and save 15% on every purchase. You will also receive 2 FREE games and have access to other special offers.

Review and Recommendations:

As I said above, we opened Expanders, set up the board, and were well into a game in less than 10 minutes. We used the 1-8 Circuit Board for the first game, and 1-12 for the second. We also used the blank strips as instructed at first, but we were having fun, so the next game we removed them, even though it was just the two of us at the beginning.

The first three moves of each game are specific and a bit confusing as to their purpose, because it places the first player is at a distinct disadvantage. We figured it would be fair if I went first, which gave Kenny a head start.

He didn't need it. After a few minutes of overcoming the game play learning curve, he was plotting to expand equations as much as possible and block me into a corner. I won the first game, but he won the second.

Kenny got the game out the next day and taught Ken and Noah how to play. They were also a bit confused by the instructions for the first three moves - the instruction itself is clear, but we were all a bit fuzzy on the purpose of it.

The instructions also suggest that the player who last downloaded an app be the one to start the game, but we aren't much for downloading apps, so we did it the old-fashioned way - by flipping a coin.

We all enjoyed playing Expanders, and found the age recommendation of 7+ to be accurate. A child must be competent with math facts 1-12 to be able to exercise other aspects of the game, such as creative math fact expansion and token placement. Expanders does become easier over time for players who have mastered basic math, but the fact that strategy is a component keeps it interesting. For families who want to invest their family entertainment dollars in games that serve more than one purpose, games from SimplyFun fit that goal very well.

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Disclaimer - I received the Expanders game from SimplyFun in exchange for my honest review.