A Gamer’s Education reviews A Board Game Education

A Board Game EducationA Board Game Education is a book written by Jeffery P. Hinebaugh and published by Rowman & Littlefield Education in 2009.  The book provides a look at the educational uses for eighteen classic board games including Monopoly, Life, and Risk.  Hinebaugh chose these games because they have been played for generations, most people have them sitting in their closet, and they “provide some of the best tools around for developing and illustrating educational skills and concepts that are fundamental to achievement.”  [A Board Game Education, Preface V]

Chapter one begins with an informative overview of board game history, illustrating how games such as Chess, GO, Pachisi, and Mancala have been played for over four thousand years. Continuing, it explains the rise in “educational” board games and the difference between them and traditional ones.  The chapter concludes with a brief history of board games in education which Chinese history proclaims “GO, known as wei-ch’i in China, was invented by Emperor Shun (2244-2206 BC) as a way to increase the intelligence of his son, Shokin.” [A Board Game Education page 80].  But the core of the book, and what I am so excited about, begins with chapter two.

Chapters two through nine are broken into educational concepts.

1. Social Science and Early Education

2. Language Arts

3. Economics

4. Logic and Deductive Reasoning

5. Strategy, planning and negotiation

6. Creative Thinking, Communication and Expression.

Each chapter begins by explaining the educational concept, what skills are taught within the concept, and real life examples of why these skills are important. Under each concept is a list of games, broken down into history, skills developed, and variations of play to enhance skills.

Initially, I was uninterested in reading about the actual history of these games. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enthralled with the information presented. For instance, did you know that special Monopoly sets were distributed by the Red Cross to Allied POWs during World War II?  These special sets contained real silk maps and real currency hidden within the game.  [A Board Game Education, page 80] Or that Candy Land was designed as an activity for children in the 1940’s stricken with polio, as a way to get their mind off the horrible disease? [A Board Game Education, page 20]

The skills section explores the educational properties developed through playing the game. Take The Game of Life for instance.  If you had asked me to play it before reading this book, I would have declined.  Now I’m tempted to buy it. Think The Game of Life is a simple roll-and-move game?  I did.  I was shocked to find it’s really a game of practical life lessons.  Investing, budgeting, buying insurance, and making the right health choices are all things players will decide upon on their way to retirement.

The skills sections made me look at each game in new ways.  It also reminded me of all the  basic skills I am currently failing to teach my children.  Luckily for me, the ideas presented here provide fun ways to teach them.  If that isn’t enough, Hinebaugh provides variations of play that add additional learning opportunities to each game.  There are enough ideas to keep you and your children busy for hours.  Finally, each section ends with personal accounts of playing each game with his family.  These tales of family board game adventures, and some mis-adventures, will tickle the funny bone of any parent.

What Hinebaugh has created I hesitate to call a book.  The word “book” leads the reader to believe it should be read from front to back, beginning to end.  A Board Game Education is an encyclopedia, a reference to help parents and educators find fun, alternative ways to teach these skills.  A Board Game Education will change the way you look at these classic games.  It will open your mind to new learning opportunities, opportunities that for years have been collecting dust in your closet.


I started the blog A Gamer’s Education (agamerseducation.wordpress.com) in 2004, just after my son was born.  I started it with the same goal as this book: to create an encyclopedia of games organized by their educational properties. The only difference is, I wanted this encyclopedia to be online and free. Time and money constraints kept me from constantly contributing to the site and it became a portal for Games Based Learning research.

After being re-inspired by this book and my new affiliation with Troll in the Corner I see it as something that could become a reality.  Do you have a game or games you have used to teach educational concepts?  If so, leave a comment and we can discuss getting your techniques on the site.

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