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Scrabble-type Word Games Build Math Skills! Really?

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Believe it or not, the game “Scrabble” is about much more than just finding long words. While it can be helpful to have a strong vocabulary, knowing a lot of long words doesn’t mean you will win. There is a lot of strategic thinking and math involved to figure out your best move. Because the tiles don’t all have equal value, it requires strategy on how you play them, not just finding the longest words.

Using the special squares on the board to double or triple the high scoring letters, hopefully in multiple directions at the same play, increases your score dramatically. These squares can only be used once, so strategy comes into play when deciding the highest point total to use these squares for, but not waiting too long so that your opponent can use them to get a double or triple word score!

According to Robin Pollock-Daniel, one of the highest-rated female Scrabble players in North America “Words are involved, but to me at least it’s more about math … Simply learning words is a big key. You don’t have to know what the word means, but you do have to know that it’s an acceptable configuration.”

It’s often the two letter words with high scoring tiles that give you your best move. Yes, a wide vocabulary will help play the game, but the ability to strategize which tiles to play on your rack, will improve your score. Knowing words like: AW, AX, AY, BY, EF, EH, EX, FA, FE, HA, HE, HI, HM, HO, IF, JO, KA, KI, MY, OW, OX, OY, QI, SH, UH, WE, WO, XI, XU, YA, YE, YO, and ZA will help find spaces to build other, longer words while also scoring big.

Sometimes it makes better sense to play a shorter word worth fewer points, holding on to a precious “S” or “blank” tile to be able to play a bingo (play all 7 of your tiles at one time = 50 point bonus called a “bingo”) in a future play. For example, three turns worth 20 points each gives you a total of 60 points. (20 points is a better than average play in a game). Saving an “S” on two turns may only give you 15 points each for those turns, but then you score a bingo for 70 points and your total is now 100 points (15+15+70).

Finally, as the game begins to wrap up, it’s important to use those high point-value tiles before it all ends. If you are able to use all your tiles, and have an empty rack first - great! If your opponent is the one who ends the game, you don’t want to be the one left with high point-value tiles on your rack!

A key to it all, from HowStuffWorks author, Lorie Dove, is that “Successful players see Scrabble as not only a word game, but as a