Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Little Pony Math is Magic - Homemade Math Game

Shortly before Christmas last year I received an educational toy catalog that included board games designed to incorporate math. While I thought the concept of the game was great, I just didn't think it would really be that *fun*. It didn't seem to be much of a "game" but more of a way to practice addition. However, the idea of it sparked an interest in me to see if I could create something better. It ended up taking me all the way until her birthday in August before I got it finished.

I loved the idea of having the dice poppers because I remember playing the game Trouble as a kid and loving popping that die. Maybe I'm the only one... I hope not. Anyway, I did some research and I couldn't find anywhere that sold just the dice poppers. I could buy two copies of the modern version of Trouble and use those poppers but it seemed like a waste of money. I found a cool Makezine article on how to make my own dice poppers and I was very close to going that route. What I ended up doing though was finding a copy of the vintage game Double Trouble on eBay.

Now the question became, how can I design a board game that incorporates math but is also fun to play? The answer came in three parts. For the first part I needed not look further than [K]s bedroom. The obvious answer was My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.

The next part was to figure out how could I make the game? I decided to use the board from the Double Trouble game I bought and adhere my new game design right over the existing board. I was able to remove the two dice poppers and the plastic spinner pieces which left me with a flat, non-folding 19" x 9.5" playing surface.

The last step, and admittedly the hardest, was figuring out how I was going to design a board game. I can't draw to save my life so I did a Google Image search on board games and ended up with one that I liked based on Nickelodeon's Phineas and Ferb. I liked the layout of the squares as well as the colors and that it wasn't too busy but still had characters and scenery on the board. The problem was that the only copy I could find was a small, low-res version which wasn't going to cut it for my actual game. I ended up opening the low res image in Photoshop and scaling it up to the size of my game board. Obviously, it looked horrible and pixelated but at least I was able to use it as a guide for drawing my own lines over the top of it. Then it was just a matter of filling in the background, the game squares, coming up with pony-appropriate special squares, and finding pony images to use on my game. Overall, I'm super happy with how it turned out. But, how to get my design onto the game board...? For this, I called in a favor with my previous employer

I used to work for an amazing company called IT Supplies. They provide everything you need for printing at an amazing price. I sent my file over to them and explained what I was making and asked if they had any kind of paper that would fit my needs. Not only did they have the *perfect* material (Photo-Tex Adhesive Removable Fabric) but they even printed my file for me (twice!) and another file as well (more on that later.) The problem with this first prototype is that the Photo-Tex isn't 100% opaque so the red and blue game design of the original Trouble game showed through. I was going to leave it but when I was designing the box cover I ended up liking that so much that I decided to change my original board design to look more like the box. That gave me the chance to take the green design off and then I could paint a light coat of white paint on the board so when I adhered the new game design the Trouble images didn't show through anymore.

At this point I realized I wanted to incorporate more math than to just pop the two dice, add them up, and go that many number of spaces. I wanted a way to keep the game interesting for a longer period of time and to make it more educational. The answer came in another Google search where I found this math game that uses cards with math problems on them that you have to answer first, and then you pop the die and move around the board.

I loved this idea because then I could incorporate any kind of math I wanted (place value, units of measure, money, time, etc.) and still use the dice popper as the way to move your piece around the board. In fact, if I had seen this game first, I probably would have bought it instead of making my own but then it wouldn't have had the extra fun of being about My Little Ponies so in hindsight, I'm still glad I ended up designing it myself.

Around this time I decided to scrap the idea of using two dice poppers and scale it back to one. I figured if [K] would be solving math problems on the cards there wasn't as much of a need for two poppers and adding up the numbers on the dice. Unfortunately, when I designed the layout of my game board I forgot to leave room for the poppers on the actual board. [A] came up with the brilliant solution of having the popper be on its own separate mini board (like how other games have separate spinners). To make it I used a very sturdy piece of cardboard we had laying around the house, covered it with some of the Photo-Tex I had them print for me, and then used black electric tape around the edges. I even added little outlines on the mini-board to show where to place the cards and the die popper. I used extra-strength Velcro to attach the popper to the mini-board to make it easier for the kids to pop, and everything fits neatly in the game box.

Oh, speaking of the game box, that was another step in the design process. I needed to design a box cover! Another Google image search resulted in a great background image of Ponyville and all I needed to do was add the ponies, add the name of my game (My Little Ponies Math is Magic), and a description of the object of the game. Along the sides of the box top I added the name of the game on the two long sides and "Happy 6th birthday, [K]!" to the two short sides. It turned out awesome! But the real test would come when I gave it to the birthday girl.

Huzzah! She loved it! We played twice the first day and several more times since. Phew! Even though this was a lot of fun for me and an awesome learning experience, it was a TON of time and work and I won't lie, I would have been pretty crushed if she was like, "Meh, it's ok." Thank goodness I know our girl well enough to know that a math game involving ponies is still a game about ponies and that's pretty cool in her eyes.

So, if you made it this far with me then you really deserve some kind of reward. I actually have two copies of the My Little Pony Math is Magic game board, dice popper, and game pieces (well, I only have three game pieces so the fourth one is a thimble). If you're interested in having your own copy please leave a comment on my blog or Facebook and I'll have my hubby create some way to randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until 9:00 AM CST on October 26th. (By the way, if you want a set of the math cards I can email you the files I created and you can have them printed where I did at Make Playing Cards. I can walk you through the process if needed.) Oh, and if you want to leave a comment but don't want to enter the contest, just let me know that as well.

Thanks for reading and good luck!


  1. Man. That's freaking amazing. Can you be my mom too? :)

  2. Holy Smokes that GENIUS! Great ideas and a very attractive looking game board. When the princess is ready for something like that, I'll definitely ask your advice.

  3. Wow what a great idea! is it possible to get a copy of the playing cards file? Thanks

  4. Awesome! I just wish I could buy a copy; my 4yo would looooove this. Can you send me a copy of the math cards file? Thanks!

  5. Please email me the playing card info :)

  6. Wow, this is so awesome! My little girl looooves MLP and I would love it if you could email me the math card files! Thanks!

  7. Would you please email me a the playing card info? I have tried to find the Pony Pics online, however, when uploading them to the card website it states that the resolution on the images is low. Did you run into this problem as well?

  8. Please email me the files for these games, such an amazing idea! Have you made any other MLP games?

  9. Can you email me the math card files please.

  10. please email me file for games.