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Holiday Gift Guide: Best Educational Gifts for Your STEM Student

From the Mathematicians and Instructors at Art of Problem Solving

Do you know a 7-year old interested in problem solving? A 10-year old who can’t get enough math puzzles? A middle schooler who loves robotics?

We know it can be difficult to pick a gift that will be equally fun and just the right level of challenge for your smart STEM student. But Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) has you covered. We asked our AoPS and Beast Academy experts — composed of some of the nation’s top mathematicians, instructors, and curriculum developers — what STEM gifts they’d recommend this year.

Here's what they said. These are the 14 very best educational gifts to give to your curious and motivated student.

Happy shopping!

Blue holiday bow
Baba is You SET, Family Game of Visual Perception Spirograph Spirograph
Dominion Tinker Laboratory STEM Crate AoPS Online Class
Beast Academy Puzzles Beast Academy Puzzles Cloaked Cats Gravity Maze
Makey Makey Invention Kit Beast Academy Online Polydron Frameworks Set

We know it can be difficult to pick a gift that will be equally fun and just the right level of challenge for your smart STEM student. But Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) has you covered. We asked our AoPS and Beast Academy experts — composed of some of the nation’s top mathematicians, instructors, and curriculum developers — what STEM gifts they’d recommend this year.

Here's what they said. These are the 12 very best educational gifts to give to your curious and motivated student.

Best Math Workbook: Beast Academy Puzzle Books

Ages 8+
Beast Academy Puzzle Books

Our Review

A perfect break from screen-time, Beast Academy’s Puzzle Books build critical problem solving skills through challenging mathematical puzzles and engaging comic-based storylines.

These books are easy grab-and-go travel companions — or keep them on the nightstand for a mind-bending bedtime ritual.

Puzzle Books levels 2 and 3 are available, recommended for ages 8-10. Difficulty ranges from straightforward starters to mystifying stumpers written by 2011 World Puzzle Champion Palmer Mebane.

Best for the Family: SET, Family Game of Visual Perception

Ages 12+
SET, Family Game of Visual Perception

Our Review

A class pattern-matching card game, SET is a popular choice among AoPS staff. With a mathematical premise, the game encourages players to build pattern recognition in an easily accessible, visual format.

Although we’ve plotted the age sweet spot as 13 (especially if you’re playing solo), children as young as 8 may be able to play with a group of family or friends.

Bonus: It’s fun for adults too!

Best Educational Video Game: Baba is You

Ages 13+
Baba is You

Our Review

Baba is You is a single-player puzzle video game that centers on rule manipulation. In each level, the player (usually Baba) can change how the game works, spurring surprising interactions en route to reaching a specific goal.

The game was awarded “Best Indie Game” at the Famitsu Dengeki Game Awards in 2019 and the “Best Design” and the “Innovation Award” at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2020, among other accolades.

Available for Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, and Nintendo Switch.

Best Recreational Math Read: Math Without Numbers, Milo Beckman

Ages 13+
Math Without Numbers, Milo Beckman

Our Review

Looking for an entertaining read? Math Without Numbers is an incredibly fun math book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

This creatively illustrated guide to abstract math topics (including topology, analysis, and algebra) peels back the layers on how mathematicians think.

We like that it breaks down rather complex higher math concepts into accessible and entertaining prose and pictures.

We recommend this book for 13 and up. Bonus: It includes some puzzles and games!

Best Logic Game: Cloaked Cats

Ages 6+
Cloaked Cats

Our Review

Cloaked Cats is just the right level of logic for the elementary student, encouraging complex problem solving and deductive reasoning. Students can take their time and focus on the computations at hand, over time getting better and better with each game.

We’ve plotted this game as perfect for the 7-9 year old, but it’s also complex enough that adults are also challenged when playing with their kids.

Plus, there’s an added level of cuteness with the cat characters that is perfect for this age range.

Best Board Game: Prime Climb

Ages 10+
Prime Climb

Our Review

Prime Climb is an award-winning (not to mention colorful) game for teaching arithmetic. From the Math for Love brand, it’s easy to learn and play often.

As the “mathier” version of Sorry, it’s a great way for teens to build number fluency. By combining colors, players master multiplication, division, factorization and prime number concepts.

We especially love the visual representations of the prime factorizations. Break it out for family game night, in the classroom, or after school with friends! Best for 2 to 4 players.

Best for Hands-On Learning: Snap Circuits Electronics Exploration Kit

Ages 10+
Snap Circuits Electronics Exploration Kit

Our Review

Photoresistors, capacitors, transistors, oh my! Build your electrical intuition by creating circuits.

We like this activity because kids can learn all about electronics while at the same time building their analytical and problem solving skills. It offers hours of creative experimentation, plus it’s super fun to make a final connection that lights a series of bulbs, moves electric motors, creates magnets, or heats resistors. We only wish I had a kit like this when we were young, instead of tinkering with the Christmas lights (not recommended).

There are a few kits to choose from, including a Snap Junior for the younger tots.

Best Deep Dive Math Book: Indra's Pearls: The Vision of Felix Klein

Ages 14+
Indra's Pearls: The Vision of Felix Klein

Our Review

This book tells the story of 19th-century geometer Felix Klein’s early mathematical idea, and how that vision was first carried out through computer exploration.

The “wow” factor here is its extraordinary images — most of the infinitely repeated reflections appearing in print for the first time.

We like this book because it brings the reader into the creation. Even computer programming beginners can follow step-by-step instructions to generate the images.

We’ve listed this as age 14+, but it’s actually just as interesting for adults interested in math as well.

Best with Friends: Dominion

Ages 13+

Our Review

This classic, award-winning game is ambitious, fast-paced, and offers a new challenge with every game!

Players compete as monarchs determined to expand their kingdoms. To do so, they must build their deck of resources to gather Gold, Provinces, and other resources that will secure victory.

The first deck-building game of its kind, players can finish Dominion in under 30 minutes, but it's never the same game twice. Designed for 2-4 players, it's perfect for ages 13 and up.

Best for Independent Learners: Makey Makey Invention Kit

Ages 8+
Makey Makey Invention Kit

Our Review

This technology invention kit is ridiculously flexible and super fun. From engineering to computer coding, this kit lets you turn pretty much anything into a switch — a bowl of water, a piece of fruit, stairs, windows, you name it! And by doing so, children invent all kinds of wacky and useful things. Perfect for a creative child who likes to think outside of the box

We recommend it for kids over 8 years of age, but it could pose fun and interesting challenges through middle school.

Additionally, with many different ways to configure the board, every game is a new play surface with unique obstacles. Meaning, lots of replay value!

Best for a Challenge: Beast Academy Bundle - Online + Books

Ages 8-13
Beast Academy Bundle - Online + Books

Our Review

Ideal for motivated young problem solvers, Beast Academy is an advanced, comprehensive comic-based math curriculum for students ages 8-13. Designed by the global leader in advanced math education, Beast Academy focuses on critical thinking and deep conceptual understanding, rather than drills and memorization.

The bundle includes both the interactive, self-paced Beast Academy Online platform and the captivating comic-based books — which together add up to more than 15,000 puzzles, word problems, and skill games to keep children engaged.

Books and Online subscription also sold separately.

Best for Engineering Lovers: Tinker Laboratory STEM Crate

Ages 12+
Tinker Laboratory STEM Crate

Our Review

From the creators at KiwiCo, these engineering kits are super engaging, well-developed projects with deep extensions for curious learners.

The Tinker crate, specifically, has eight different projects inside focused on automation, robotics, circuits, hydraulic systems and more.

We recommend this specific crate for young middle schoolers.

Best for Math Lovers: Polydron Frameworks Set

Ages 6+
Polydron Frameworks Set

Our Review

The perfect splurge for a budding mathematician, these Polydron Frameworks sets guide children through the exploration of Archimedean Solids. Unlike a Lego set, which restricts to a specific target, they can use these pieces to design and create their own objects — each with their own fascinating properties.

This larger 452-piece set option lets students build all 13 Archimedean Solids at the same time. (Tutorials also included.)

This set is suited for elementary and middle schoolers, as well as advanced geometry lovers as young as 6.

Best for Advanced Learners: AoPS Online Class

Ages 11+
AoPS Online Class

Our Review

The most advanced (and splurgy) gift on our list this year is an interactive math class through AoPS Online School. If your student is an ambitious problem solver, these classes dive into complex challenges to teach higher-order reasoning skills and deep conceptual understanding.

In the live online classroom, expert instructors lead cohorts through engaging and rigorous challenges, and students work with peers to creatively problem solve together.

In addition to the challenge itself, many of our students love being part of a peer community that loves math as much as they do. Many AoPS alumni become lifelong friends!

The first course in the AoPS Online School is Prealgebra 1, suited for grades 6- 7 (depending on the desired difficulty level), which kicks off the Introductory Math series.