Dream House: Free Board Game Teaches Multiplication

By admin, May 20, 2015

My daughter and I developed “Dream House” together. It is a creative, non-competitive game that can be used to reinforce concepts of multiplication and area – and to give practice with multiplication facts. It is perfect for kids who enjoy creative, non-competitive activities.

We have a “make your own board game kit” that I put together to encourage the kids to make their own games.

One day, my daughter made a game she called “Arch-EE-Tect”. She drew several objects (furniture, play equipment, household items) on paper and cut them out. Then she made a board, which was an outline of a house. In her version of the game, players simply took turns choosing items and placing them in the house. She also thought of the idea of giving each player their own board, so they could furnish their own house.

I had been trying to think of games that would reinforce multiplication facts (and better yet multiplication concepts) and had an idea in my mind of doing something with graph paper and area. I thought her game would be perfect if only we used graph paper for the objects and the board, so we could easily calculate area. I thought of dice as a way to add a little structure to the game, force the players to calculate the area of the objects, and encourage learning multiplication facts.

I looked on the web to see if anyone had posted a similar game. I found a lot of games where you roll two dice and draw rectangles with the dimensions on the dice. I think I even saw one where you could draw any shape, as long as it had the same area calculated from the dice. I didn’t find anyone drawing objects (like household items) – only simple shapes – nor did I find anyone using any kind of theme (like designing a house). I did get the idea from these games that the objects could simply be drawn on-the-fly rather than selected from a pre-drawn-and-cut objects.

So “Dream house” was born.

Dream house

Version 1


graph paper

colored markers

2 dice  (You can use standard dice to practice multiplication up through 6×6 – to get the higher numbers in, we grab dice with more than 6 sides from our “board game kit.”)

Set up:

Give each person a piece of graph player and a piece of regular paper.

Each person can also decide what they want to design – the default is to have each person design a room in a house, but you can also open it up to anything – players might chose to design a children’s museum, playground, or aquarium – the skies the limit!


1. Each person rolls the dice and writes down their roll on their regular paper.

2. All players work simultaneously to add a new object to their design, based on their roll. The object you add must have the same dimensions or the same area as shown on the dice. So, for example, if you roll 5 and 4, you can make a 5×4 rectangle or any shape that has an area of 20.

I like to draw my rooms from a bird-eye-view. So in this case, I might draw a 5×4 rectangle to represent a table, or I might draw an L-shaped sofa with a total area of 20. Players are encouraged to decorate and fully color in their objects, so I might put some magazines on my table or some pillows on my sofa – you can add anything you want as long as it stays within the dimensions of your object.

younger kids, usually prefer to draw their objects the “regular way” – not birds-eye. That’s ok too. So, for example, a kid might draw a slide with ladder from a front facing view and add it to the middle of their livign room! Anything goes as long as the total area of the object matches the product of the two numbers on the dice. – so in this case, the total number of grid squares taken up by the slide should be 20.

You can also allow kids to do more than one shape/item as long as the total area adds up to the product of their roll

Continue to play until players are satisfied with their design. There is no winner – this is a non-comptitive game. Instead, layers are rewarded by completeing a beautiful design that they can keep.

Adaptions for kids learning multiplication:

Their area number of adaptions you can make to help kids who don’t know their times tables yet.

My favorite is to provide each kid with some extra graph paper. They can use this to draw a rectangle with the dimensions given and then to calculate the area. Once they have the area, they can draw any shape they want on their board.

You could also let kids keep a copy of a times table with them (or an abacus if they know how to use one to multiply). Or you could help them. Or they could be limited to drawing rectangles unless they are able to figure out the product on their own (good for kids who are able to figure it out, but need a little push).


Version 2:

Same as version 1, but you will need plenty of graph paper and some scissors. Instead of drawing the objects directly on their board, players draw the objects on a separate piece of graph paper,cut them out and place them on their board.

Save the objects for future games. In future games, players can chose to select an already-made object or make a new one. Either way, the area must match their roll.

(Once you have enough objects, you can also play a fast version, using only the pre-made objects.)

You can also pre-make objects, but I think making them as you lay is more fun. What do you think?

Optional: write the area of each object on the back of the object and pile the objects according to their area. This will save time in finding an object that matches your roll – but you sill still have to calculate the area from your roll, so you are still doing math with every turn.

Version 3:

Mix it up! Allow players to draw directly on their board, choose from a pile of pre-drawn objects, or create and cut out  new objects!

Lamination ideas:

1. For either version: laminate several sheets of graph paper, so they can be used like wipe-erase boards for your boards. This is handy for either version of the game – downside is you can’t keep your design (with version 1 – with versions 2 and 3 you wouldn’t be keeping your design anyway).

2. For version 2 and 3: After making several objects, glue or tape them on to a piece of paper to fill up the page. Leave a  little space around each object. then laminate the whole paper and cut the objects out again. Your objects will last longer this way.

Teaching tips and more variations:

The great thing about this game is that while it provides plenty of repetition needed for learning multiplication facts (and through a much more fun medium than flash cards), it also forces the child to visualize of the concept of multiplication with each calculation.

There are some ways you can encourage them.

For example, when drawing rectangles, point out to the child, that the rectangle is really an array with rows and columns.

If they have drawn a rectangle and are calculating hte area, encourage them not to count hte squares, but for example, with 5×4, to notice that there are 4 rows of 5, so you can count by fives to get the answer (or 5 rows of 4 and count by fours).

With more complicated shapes you can teach the kids to add two products together. Fro example, if they roll 6 and 6, they can combine a 10×3 rectangle with a 1×6 rectangle to make a T-Shaped table. you can point out that 6×6 = 36 = 10×3 + 1×6. This gives them another way to visualize 36.

Allowing kids to do more than one shape, as long as the total area adds up to the product of their roll, open up even more doors for learning. For example, with a roll of 9 and 8, you could make a 8×5 stage (what kids doesn’t want a theatrical stage in their bedroom!) and four 8×1 benches or seat rows. You can show them that 8×9 = 8×5 + 8×1 + 8×1 +8×1 + 8×1). This prepare will prepare them to eventually learn the distributive property.

For older kids, you can use shapes like triangles with diagonal lines that cut through half (or some other fraction!) of a square. this is much more advanced.

If you try the game, please let me know what you think! If you find ways to improve it, please share.

What do you think?

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