/ June 8, 2022/ Board Games, Games For Littles, Math Games/ 0 comments

When I first opened the box to Math Explosion, I was dismayed at its cheapness.  The box is such that the only way to store all the game components in it, is for the volcano to be folded, which can be distracting during gameplay.  So, we keep our volcano out of the box, which means storage is awkward.

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The board is of really cheap quality.  Overall, the whole thing feels like something someone threw together in their garage, or on their kitchen table.  However, I will admit that we’ve had a few instances where the board being water-resistant was a definite plus.  I did play this game with littles, after all, and we went through a phase where we played during breakfast.

Math Explosion, ready to begin gameplay!
This is the side with the short game. Even when someone wins the game when they land on the first bonus card spot (one of the bonus cards sends you to the last volcano, causing whoever drew it to immediately win the game), there’s still plenty of math practice for a small child.

Two sides for two different gameplay experiences!

The board IS double-sided, so you have 2 different ways to play.  One side has an individual path for each player, while the other side is more of a traditional board game path for all players.  We preferred the individual paths and only played on the other side once.  The one long path for all players was a lot longer; too long for my young kids’ short attention spans.  Around the outside of the board are printed a number of cool volcano facts, and there’s great integration of the Magic School Bus theme throughout.

Math Explosion, the side with the longer game
The long side. I believe we tried to play this side all of once, and never again. Luckily, it starts with bonus cards, so everyone gets dispersed right away.

Now, the cards.  Oh, the cards, or lack thereof.  It doesn’t come with pre-made cards for the math problems. It does come with paper to print them on, and a website to go to for formatting and choosing the math problems.  While I appreciated the thought, I never was able to get that website to work for me. (It could have been my Chromebook, my printer, or any number of problems on my end.) The paper is really thin.  I don’t think they’d work well as flashcards, anyway, especially considering how often we played the game.  In the end, I made my own flashcards out of note cards.  I did appreciate that I was able to make a custom set for each kid, which meant that they worked on the specific math problems they needed to work on.

How to play Math Explosion

Now, for gameplay.  When it’s your turn, you answer a math problem, and on answering correctly, you move forward one space.  I still remember when my son was going through a particularly stubborn phase and refused to believe that he could possibly be wrong.  “That’s fine,” I told him, “You just won’t move this turn.”  This worked for my son and he was willing to admit the correct answer (figured out using manipulatives, which we always have on hand).

Some spaces have volcanoes on them, in which you move forward one extra space.  Many spaces have you add baking soda to your cup (that’s also your token moving around the board).  Some spaces are “bonus card” spaces, in which you draw one of the provided bonus cards.  Bonus cards may have you move forward a certain number of spaces, others have you add more baking soda to either your own, or all cups.  Still others have you move to a certain type of volcano.

Note that it is possible for someone to win once they get to the first bonus card space, as one of the volcanoes on those cards is right before the end of the game (and you move forward one space when you land on a volcano).  I’ve often strategically moved that particular bonus card to the middle or bottom of the pile, just to be sure my kids are getting enough practice.

The bonus cards have you move forward, add baking soda, or move to a particular volcano.
The instructions are cleverly located on the inside of the box lid. The game’s not hard to figure out, though, so I think it’s fine to unbox and bag Math Explosion, if you think you’ll have it for a while.

Exploding the volcano can be very rewarding

In the middle of the board, at the end of the path(s), is the volcano.  The first person to get to the volcano gets to “explode” it, as it’s filled with vinegar, and baking soda is in the cups.  This particular reward has proven to be exceptionally motivating for my kids.  So much so that my daughter insisted on playing Math Explosion daily for about 6 months.  For a game that’s essentially flashcards, and like I said, rather cheaply made, I was really impressed at the amount of gameplay it saw.  Usually, to prevent tantrums, I add more vinegar after the first explosion and let the other kid explode it, too.  My kids prefer the explosion when I remember to add a bit of dish soap and red food dye to the vinegar.

Overall, I’m glad we got Math Explosion.  The amount of math practice my kids got because of it has made it worth it.  I don’t regret paying full price for it, but if you can find it used I’d call it a definite win.  Still unsure?  Check out our youtube video of a play-through.

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