My daughter, Pickle,* and I got a package in the mail today.


Developed by MathForLove, it was a kickstarter… like… nine months ago, and it arrived today.

Immediately, (after we clocked the little brother with the box, denied it, got sent to time-out, confessed, and pledged to be truthful hereafter) we sat down to play the game.

The box, as you can see, is a cute size, and the rules for the various games are also printed on cards within the box. Which is good, because I was hella stoked to play, but unsure where to start.

First up, “Hungry Numbers” for ages 3 and up. The purple numbers will only eat cards with the same number of dots as their value.


Pickle: Hungry Numbers? That’s a silly name!

Next, we matched cards with the same values to their buddies with the same number of dots. It was a good chance to get Pickle acquainted with ten-frames, which she hadn’t seen before.


This was a good time to teach my wife why a ten-frame (the blue cards) are important for counting and cardinality development.

I should note, my wife had surgery last week, is hopped up on Oxy, and didn’t really care about cardinality development. She went to take a nap shortly after we finished playing.

Both those games were for ages 3 and up, so I figured we could take it up a notch with something more her level (Pickle is 4).

We played PowerDot (which is essentially War, but for with a different name for children/people in nations besides the U.S.). For this game, we added in the Orange cards (circular numbers).


This led us into some great chats about what makes a number “greater,” a term she hadn’t heard yet.

Then we were interrupted because her brother had gotten stuck by the ottoman.

Fig. 1: Pissed

Next, good-ol-fashioned Matching.

Then, we took it up a notch.

Vaudrey: Pickle, the next game is for big kids. Ages five and up. Do you think you can handle it?
Pickle: (blows out tongue) I can handle it! I can do a hard game!

In the Dot Fives game, we matched ten-frames with other dots to make five. “This one has three, how many more to make five?” She, of course, crushed it. My wife and I were both impressed.


Then, in a moment out of a sitcom, she cheered and cried, “Yay! I can do tough things!” Then gave me a hug.

This… doesn’t happen often in my math classroom.

Letting students struggle and asking probing questions has been the focus of my career for the last decade, so I felt well-prepared to lead Pickle in this game. Even for parents who are not math-education geeks bent on patient problem-solving, this game is a great place to start for Pre-K kiddos.

Thankfully, the designers also included a Guide for Grown-Ups (posted here, about 75% of the way down). This guide should be required reading for teacher candidates in college. It should be laminated and given, poster-style, to every new hire in a school district. It should be tattooed on the forehead

Okay, you get the point.

I no longer live in the Pacific Northwest. The next time I’m there, however, I’m scheduling a visit to the MathForLove HQ. I really wanna meet these three people, who have advanced degrees in things I can barely pronounce. Here’s founder Dan Finkel on a TED Talk worth watching:

“Thinking happens when we have time to struggle.” Oh, yeah. Finkel gets me.

Since the last time I visited their website, they’ve added a free lesson plans page. Using your resources to empower math teachers for free? That — by itself — is enough to get me on your team.

Also, the team at MathForLove also designed Prime Climb. Initially, it sounds like they were trying to cram math into a game where it doesn’t belong, but after reading the rules to Prime Climb, I really want it.

In short, I recommend getting your own set of Tiny Polka Dot here as a PDF or click here to order sturdy cards early next year.

~Matt “I can do tough things” Vaudrey

*Not her real name, but what I call her on the regular.