Review: 4-Way Coundown Math Game

Is your toddler ready for a game like this? Let’s discuss why or why not below.

4-Way Countdown by Cadaco is a math game aimed at kids 6-years-and-up. My 3-year-old daughter was introduced to it by her 5-year-old friend as a simple counting or adding game.

Photo of the 4-Way Countdown board with dice in the middle and some wooden key pegs turned up.

The game components are two 6-sided dice and a square wood board with a dice pit. The four sides of the board are lined with 10 "keys"  each, numbered 1 through 10. The keys are wood bars secured on one end by a metal rod that allows them to flip up or down. When flipped up, their labeled numbers are not visible.

Big Kid Rules

The game begins with all keys in their down position, numbers visible. Players take turns rolling the dice and finding a way to flip one of their keys up.

A key is flipped when the player can deduce a mathematical formula using the dice values, with the key value as the answer.

For example, if a 2 and 4 are rolled, one of these moves is possible:

  • 2 + 4 = 6 (flip the 6 key)
  • 4 – 2 = 2 (flip the 2 key)
  • 4 / 2 = 2 (flip the 2 key)
  • 4 x 2 = 8 (flip the 8 key)

When an 11 is rolled, the player may choose an opponent and flip all of his keys down.

When a 12 is rolled, the player’s own keys are flipped down.

AJ’s Adapted Toddler Rules

1. Only addition is used. My daughter counts by pointing her finger at each dot on the dice. At her stage, she’s not really adding, but counting a total from the two dice.

2. When the two dice values combine to produce a number whose key is already flipped, the face value of one die face may instead be flipped.

The roll-11 and roll-12 rules are enforced only when temperament allows. If it’s late in the day and my daughter is tired, or we want a shorter game, we disregard those rules.

A game can be completed in 10 minutes if the roll-11 and roll-12 rules are ignored.

A close-up of the 4-Way Countdown board.

Why this game rocks

  • 4-Way Countdown will grow with my child, becoming a richer experience as her math skills develop.
  • For ages 3 and 4, the game teaches counting, addition and dice value recognition. At the moment, my daughter can identify a 1, 2 or 3 roll without placing her finger to count the dots, and can add 1 to any number in her head. Hey, you have to start somewhere.
  • Excellent quality. My question to the mother-turned-elementary school teacher who showed us this game was… "Where did you find it? From a teacher’s catalog?" Nope… K-Mart.
  • The game is fun, or at least we enjoy it. There is a certain satisfaction garnered by identifying an appropriate key and flipping it up with your index finger, hearing wood knock on wood.

On the downside, the sound of the dice hitting the dice pit is on the loud side. I cut and folded a paper towel into the pit to soften the sound.

Sale links:

Related games:

  1. Fruit Dominoes (maybe our daughter’s first real game at 18 months?)
  2. My First Matching Game (cloth tiles)
  3. Four-Scene Sequencing Cards
  4. Who Lives Where?
  5. Snail’s Pace Race (a toddler’s first board game)
  6. Four First Board Games
  7. Hisss snake-making tile game

Why this game is totally not age appropriate

A Thinga-reader comment on yesterday’s review of the Crazy Faces card game caught my attention… The parent’s 3-year-old isn’t developmentally ready to play such a card game.

It got me thinking… My daughter’s 5-year-old friend is the only other child we know who plays 4-Way Countdown, so our daughter often plays it with Mom and Dad. Some of her same-age friends are probably capable, while others are one, two, maybe even three years away from being ready for a sit-down math game.

Maybe it comes down to having a good attention span and patience to endure a game that occasionally presents setbacks to the player. Our daughter seems to have an aptitude for games that involve sequence rules.

Maybe it’s a familiarity issue. We began introducing board games to our daughter around age 2. Maybe where some parents opted for videos, or crafts or physical games, we focused on tile matching and puzzles and such.

It was a culture shock the first time our daughter pulled out a puzzle to play with a friend and her friend couldn’t distinguish the significance between the picture side and blank side of a puzzle piece. Maybe experience is everything.

Maybe it’s the example set by Mom and Dad. We play games with her and with our adult friends. A few weeks ago she prepared her stuffed animals around her toddler table to hold her own "game night."

What do you think?


10 Responses to “Review: 4-Way Coundown Math Game”

  1. Barbara says:

    In most circumstances, I’d vote for experience. If their first exposure to games and puzzles is 3 or 4 they aren’t going to be as ready for it as a child that’s been playing with them since 1.

    With assistance, a 12 month old can handle the wood cut out puzzles with the knob. Teach them to put the piece down and twist it until it falls into place. Repeated exposure from there on out moves them up to more complicated games as they get older.

    I know that’s not the case for all children, every child develops at their own pace.

    March 18th, 2008 at 7:08 am

  2. Diana (Holes In My Shiny Veneer) says:

    This game sounds awesome! My 4yo loves games and math– he started with Cariboo when he was 2 1/2 and we’ve never looked back. He’s a puzzle fiend, too, by the way.

    I’d agree it’s a familiarity/experience thing– he’s been playing with adults for a long time and I attribute his comfort level with adults partly at least to his game playing. With his passion for games we’ve learned to take age levels as a rather broad suggestion since he is quite comfortable with games and puzzles for 5 and 6 year olds.

    I do sometimes wonder if it all comes from his experience or if it’s just the way God has wired him!

    March 18th, 2008 at 8:23 am

  3. Jessamyn says:

    I think a lot of it has to do with the parental temprament too. My husband gets very frustrated with my 4-year-old’s game playing. She likes to make up new rules and try playing it that way. Which is very creative and results in games closer to “Calvin Ball” than “Chutes and Ladders” but makes him nuts. She’ll play games by the rules but gets bored with them easily.

    This countdown game sounds very neat. We may have to try it. We’re always playing dinner math (“if you need to eat 7 bites and you’ve already had 3, how many do you have left”, etc.)

    March 18th, 2008 at 8:30 am

  4. Erica says:

    My 2 1/2 year old is doing 25 piece puzzles in just a few minutes, and she loves playing games. I think she’d love this game if we played it with your “Adapted Toddler Rules”, but she’s obviously not capable of multiplying, dividing, etc. I like that when you change a few rules to make it age-appropriate, it can grow with her. I’m definitely tiring of Dora Candy Land, and she plays by the real rules (if you pull the card that sets you back, you gotta go back;it can make for a long game!) and some of her other kid games. Excuse me, but I think I need to get going to K-Mart…

    March 18th, 2008 at 9:44 am

  5. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    OOh! Sounds like a great game for my nephew (about to be 6)

    March 18th, 2008 at 9:50 am

  6. Melissa says:

    Very cool. I’m definitely going to look into this for my 5 year old who loves counting and simple math. Thanks for the review!

    March 18th, 2008 at 10:12 am

  7. Summer says:

    AJ – Thanks for the response on Crazy Faces… it may be her attention span. She doesn’t have an attention span for TV more than sitting for 5-10 minutes and when we are building blocks or doing puzzles and she can’t figure it out she gets easily frustrated. We haven’t introduced any board games yet – (I’m thinking now – am I a bad parent?) Why haven’t I done this?

    One of her favorite things we do is “workbook time” She can sit for an hour at a time with me and go through one of those preschool workbooks where she has to pick out the object that doesn’t belong or match colors or such. She loves it – so maybe she would love something like this… she does love counting things too lately. I guess I always assumed that board games were for older children. (That and I think I grew up too fast as a kid and don’t remember being one!) I might just have to go peruse the board game aisle at kmart down the street from us.

    Have any other suggestions for great board games for 3 year olds? Go Fish? I’m going to make it a point to have game night once a week just me and her and her dad from here on out.

    March 18th, 2008 at 10:20 am

  8. AnjieNet says:

    This looks like a great game. I will look for it next time I’m in a game aisle.

    In response to Summer’s post, my 4 year old daughter loves Go Fish, Crazy Faces, Hi-Ho Cherrio, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Cootie, Go Diego Go 1-2-3, Memory and Pretty Pretty Princess. Some are fairly educational and some clearly not. :)

    Our newest family favorite is the card game BLINK. Recommended for ages 7 and up but if we play slow, our 4 year old can play too. It’s matching of shapes, count and color on the cards. It’s amazing how quicker she’s gotten on recognizing matches.

    March 18th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

  9. Kelly says:

    This is fantastic! As a kid I played with this version constantly. I loved the soothing repetitiveness of the game, a less messy solitaire of sorts. I think it will be a great way to intro my son to maths games. With the added benefit of only having the dice to chase down as the other pieces are attached.

    March 18th, 2008 at 10:26 pm

  10. Danielle S says:

    This looks like a great learning tool! Thanks for the heads up!

    March 20th, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Post a comment

(will not be published)