Wits and Wagers (and Wits and Wagers Family Edition)
As the game nerd of my extended family, I often play the role of wrangler, trying to get my siblings and cousins to sit still long enough to learn how to play this game they've never heard of.
So I love when a game is intuitive and quick to explain, while still being fun enough to justify the attention of six or eight family members at a time.
A couple of weeks ago, I introduced my family to one such game: Wits and Wagers. The gameplay is straightforward, but the game comes with moments of surprise and turns of luck that my family really enjoyed. And of course, there is a ton of fun, accessible math to consider while playing.
Anyway, let's find out how to play!
How to Play
Wits and Wagers is a game based on estimation and betting. Each player gets a mini whiteboard and an erasable marker.
One person reads out a trivia question with a numerical answer such as:
How tall is the Empire State Building, in feet?
How many full-length plays did William Shakespeare write?
What is the world record in the men's long jump competition, in feet and inches?
(Do these questions seem too hard for your kids? Mine too! Don't worry, there is a Family Edition for kids that I'll describe below.)
Each player writes down their guess and places their board facedown in the center of the table.
Then the boards are flipped over and arranged in numerical order. These boards are placed on the Wits and Wagers felt board that looks a bit like a betting table at a Vegas casino.
Once the guesses are placed in order, each player gets to make two bets on the card or cards that they believe are the closest to the correct answer.
This is the most fun part of the game: you don't have to bet on your own guess! If you think someone else's guess is more accurate, you can wager on their board instead of yours.
The correct answer is revealed and the winning board is chosen using Price is Right rules (closest without going over). The player with the closest guess wins three chips, and anyone who bet on the correct board also wins chips, depending on their original wager and the odds listed on the felt board.
Then you play the next round, but now anyone who has won chips can use them to make larger wagers in this round.
The game takes seven rounds, but there can be big swings from round to round. If you win a lot of chips in round three, you can still lose them with some incorrect betting in round four.
At the end of the game, the player with the most chips is the winner!
If you have young children, you might want to check out the Family Edition of the game. Gameplay is mostly the same, except the questions are more accessible for kids. Also, rather than win chips that you can then bet in future rounds, you move along a path until one player reaches the finish, at which point the game is over.
Where's the Math?
The primary mathematical skill that this game develops is estimation.
We want our kids to be able to work fluently with numbers, but we also want them to be able to connect those numbers to the real world. It's great to be able to count to 100, but it might also be useful to know, roughly, what 100 of something looks like. What would 100 jelly beans look like? 100 leaves in a pile? 100 people in a line?
Wits and Wagers provides a way for kids to guess wildly and then fine-tune their estimates during the betting stage. That's why this game is even more fun than a simple trivia game: if you don't know the answer, you can use your opponents' knowledge and bet on their guesses. So even if you're way off, you still have a chance to win! And all the while, you're building a better sense of estimation.
Some people don't like trivia games because they feel like they are at a disadvantage. Wits and Wagers helps to level the playing field by giving everyone a chance to evaluate their own guesses, along with everyone else's, before making their final bets.
Questions to Ask
If your child struggles with estimation, you can ask some guiding questions. One I like is "Is the correct answer closer to 10, 100, or 1000?"
This question gets kids thinking in terms of orders of magnitude, which can actually be a more intuitive way to make estimates. Once you've narrowed down the order of magnitude (between 10 and 100, between 100 and 1000, between 1000 and 10,000, etc) then you can start to sharpen your guesses.
As I said above, the game uses Price is Right rules, so overestimates are automatically wrong. There is value, however, in debating this rule. If you guess 40 and your child guesses 100 and the answer turns out to be 80, you can ask your child "Who was closest to the right answer?" You might even give your child an opportunity to make their case that the rule should be changed in extreme cases. What if the correct answer had been 99? Would it still be fair for 40 to be the "winning" guess?
Of course, once you change the rule you've introduced more math into the game! You'll need to determine which guess is closest to the correct answer in every round. If you guess 1943 and your child guesses 2012 and the correct answer is 1981, who was closest? Do you need to grab some pencil and paper?
If you are someone who wants your kids to learn the math skills that they will use most often in the "real world," then estimation is a perfect place to start. Lucky, then, that Wits and Wagers is such a fun way to hone that skill!
Click here to buy Wits and Wagers or Wits and Wagers Family Edition on Amazon