Does Minecraft math really teach our kids about math? The answer to that is absolutely yes. And it can teach so much more than just math. It can teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, spacial awareness and volumes, scale and ratio, maps and rational thinking and problem solving skills. These are just a few of the skills that Minecraft play can help teach your child.
The game was not originally intended for children, however its simple construction concepts are perfect for children to quickly master. When I talk to my children about Minecraft math that they already use, I can see the lightbulb go on in their head.
Minecraft is certainly not a formal education in mathematics but it is a hands on practical application of it.
Addition in Minecraft Math
Addition is probably one of the first things you think about when it comes to Minecraft math. After all, every structure in Minecraft is built from single blocks. If your child is building a wall, you child will need to add 1 block plus 1 block, plus 1 block to make a wall 3 blocks long.
That seems easy, even obvious. But the repetition of this type of game play allows your child to do the same thought process faster each time. After your child has built a wall 3 blocks long, then they will need to add height to it. Kids pick a random number or go by how high the wall looks. But each time the child adds a row, they know the they need to do this again and again. 1 row + 1 row + 1 row. Every time a building gets larger that scale of addition continues to grow.
Without realizing it, your child is able to pick out how many blocks they will need to make a wall of a certain height. They don’t need to be taught that 2 blocks plus 1 blocks makes 3 blocks. They are discovering it as they go. That process and pattern get quickly stored in your child’s mind.
Subtraction in Minecraft Math
Subtraction in Minecraft Math is very similar. Because subtraction is a more abstract concept to many children, mastering it can lead to a larger jump in the understanding of all math concepts.
One of my favorite examples of subtraction is the the Minecraft cart. The Minecraft cart is like a rollercoaster. It goes up and down and all around. However, if the cart is on a flat surface its not going to do much. And who wants a boring rollercoaster? It needs ups and downs. To do pull this off your child will add and remove elements to give the cart its rollercoaster type feel. Your child will quickly understand that if they build a ramp 6 blocks high they will need to build lower ramps to support the track. So the next one might be 1 less than 6, or 3 less than 6. By doing this they quickly learn subtraction. Not only are they learning how to do subtraction, they learn how to apply it.
Multiplication in Minecraft Math
Minecraft structures are made up of collections of blocks. Because of this, those collections can be easily translated into multiplication. Let’s say your child builds a platform. And that platform is 3 blocks long and 3 blocks wide. Your child lays them out to form a solid and equal surface. The entire time that your child is laying out blocks they are counting (1,2,3),(1,2,3),(1,2,3). They are learning that 3 rows of 3 is equal to doing (1,2,3) 3 times. This step is repeated over and over and over again in the game. Want to build a house? (1,2,3),(1,2,3),(1,2,3). Because they have counted it out and visualized hundreds, thousands of times, your child learns that 3 x 3 equals 9.
Volumes and area
Another skill that is learned by playing Minecraft is volumes and area. A common Minecraft thing is to build a structure that is either hollow, filled in or filled in and will later be hollowed out. Different kids learn these concepts in different ways, or stumble across one before another.
Imagine that your child is building a house. They have made that structure a 100 x 100 x 100. In order for that house to have an inside, the center of this structure will need to be hollow. To make the interior of the house, your child must play with and understand volumes and areas. Your child learns that if they would like to place a bed and a couch and a stove in the house they will need xx amount of space in that house. They will learn that they need to hollow out a N x N x N area to make room for their items. Or that when building they will need an inside area of 9 so they will need an exterior area of 11 x 11.
Minecraft Scale and ratio in Minecraft Math
Imagine for a moment that your child has decided to build a farm in Minecraft. They will need to build a barn, and a house and a fenced in field for the animals. So your child starts with a house. The house must be big enough for your child’s character to go into. The barn must be large enough for your horse to go into it. And the fenced in area must be large enough for your chickens. Theses structures can’t be so large that your child will never finish them. So they need to take these real life elements, measure them against the size of the characters and animals and interpret them to be to scale for the game.
This is a very basic concept of scale. But as your child gets better at this they will take on more complex structures and real world replications.
If your child wants to create a statue of Steve that is 500 blocks tall, they will need to scale Steve to the correct measurements and ratios. If they don’t, Steve may end up without a shirt or with arms that are too long for his body. Again, with more repetition, this skill becomes easier over time.
Problem solving skills in Minecraft Math
When in creative mode, Minecraft is only limited by your child’s imagination. It has no standard game play of do x then y then you win z. The game is as difficult as your child makes it and because of that, the game grows and becomes more complex as your child’s abilities do. Your kid is constantly challenged. As they think up the challenge and follow through on it, they are learning ways to avoid mistakes, make things larger and more grand and, solve problems more quickly. They are learn from their mistakes in realtime and are applying new solutions. Each problem that they encounter is unique and a new challenge for your child.
This is all great stuff. But wait! Your child doesn’t know that they have learned about math through Minecraft. They just know how to play Minecraft. This is why having a conversation with your kids about math in Minecraft is an important step you don’t want to miss.
Here are a few ways to talk to your child about Minecraft math:
Discuss plan or concept
- Ask your child what they wanted to build before they started building?
- Why did they want to build it?
- If they built something else, why did they change their mind, or the building changed into something else?
Discuss thought process
- Ask your child what they initially thought about before they started building.
- Did they have a picture in their head?
- Were they trying to copy something?
- Did they think about how they would start the project or anything they needed to keep in mind when building the project?
- What was the first thing that you did to build your structure and why did you start with that?
- Did you know how tall or wide?
- Or were you just going by what looked good?
Discuss things they ran into while trying to follow through on implementation.
- What things didn’t go according to plan?
- What things did you decided to change or improve?
Discuss the relation to school math
- Talk about what math skills they used when creating a structure.
- Did they recognize them?
- Do they see the correlation between Minecraft and school math.
Through game play our kids are learning math. Through discussion and explanation they find out that they already know so much. This helps kids feel more comfortable when tackling a new concept at school. It gives them confidence that they can learn new things and enjoy it at the same time.