This week's blog is jam packed!
I've got a brand-new video about my favorite board game ever, Blokus (more on that below)!
Not only that, I have two games to teach you this week! One is a fantastically fun road-trip game, and the second is its mathematical cousin.
I found both these games on the website of my friend John Golden, who is one of my favorite people to chat with about games and math. He is a math professor and a games addict, and his website is a cornucopia of awesome, mathy games.
Let's get into it! First up: Last Letter Loses!
This week's blog is jam packed!
Different contexts call for different games. Some of my favorite board games, although fun, require a lot of time and space to play.
We don't often have the ability to take over the whole kitchen table with a multi-hour Monopoly session. As parents, sometimes we just need something to keep our kids distracted in the car for a few minutes so they'll stop arguing about which song from Moana to listen to next.
Number Patterns is a perfect mini-game for these situations.
This week I'm sharing a game that is a mainstay in math classrooms all across the country.
The reasons are obvious: the game gets kids to use their knowledge of operations to solve problems, but in a way that feels much more like a creative exercise or a puzzle than most classroom activities.
While it's perfect for the elementary or middle school classroom, it's also a fun brain teaser to play with your kids. As long as they are decent with their multiplication facts, they're old enough to play!
The game is called 24.
This week's game is an invention by one of my favorite math teachers in the country: Joe Schwartz.
Joe has been writing beautifully about elementary math teaching for years at his blog Exit 10A. In fact, his writing was one of my first gateways into the wonderful world of early math.
Anyway, a few years ago he posted about a game he had invented called Number Grid Tic-Tac-Toe.
The second I read his post, I knew he was onto something special.
Today we have a guest! A couple of months ago, I got an email from Kyle DeBoer, a math teacher at Advent Episcopal School here in Birmingham. We met up in his class to chat about math, games, and whatever else came up.
The second I saw the game closet in his classroom, I knew I had met one of my people.
(Here is picture of part of it. I mean, come on! Amazing.)
Kyle runs a strategy games club in the afternoons at his school, so he's seen firsthand the ways that board and card games can help kids develop skills that can lead them to success in math. And he's here to tell you all about it.
So take it away, Kyle!
Last weekend, my wife and I took the older two kids up to New York City for the first time. For a couple of kids who think of downtown Birmingham as The Big City, this was quite an experience!
Specifically, we were all struck be how much walking we ended up doing. At one point, on the way to MoMA, my four-year-old daughter just had to stop. We found our way to Bryant Park and sat at a table to rest up for a few minutes.
Fortunately, I had happened to bring a deck of cards with me! I pulled them out and taught my kids a new game that I had just learned the week before called Garbage.
I think Garbage is the perfect game for these sorts of moments - you need your preschooler occupied with a game that is easy to learn and fast to play. Not only that, but the game hits that sweet spot of number recognition and counting that my daughter is at the perfect age for.
I'm particularly proud of this week's activity: My son invented it himself!
A couple of years back, my son found some chalk at a birthday party. He took a piece of chalk in each hand and started drawing on the driveway in symmetrical lines and curves; he almost looked like a conductor of a symphony, swinging his hands back and forth in time with each other.
The math teacher in me immediately saw an opportunity to build an activity out of this artistic idea: Mirror drawing!
Now, of course, my son isn't the first kid to happen upon this idea. But that's just a testament to its power as a fun way to get kids thinking about symmetry.
Since that time, I've come up with several variations on mirror drawing and tried them with different age groups. No matter the age, kids seem to love mirror drawing. Frankly, I think it's pretty fun myself! Below are some of my favorite activities to do with mirror drawing.
One reason that games make such great teaching tools is that they give kids a reason to care about the math they are using.
Hand a kid a worksheet full of multiplication problems, and they might balk. But play a game where multiplication is used to calculate the score, and suddenly they have a desperate need to find out what 6*8 is.
Similarly, football fans in 3rd grade are lucky: the 7s times table, notoriously the most difficult to memorize, is a breeze if you've spent the past few years counting touchdowns. Whats 5*7? That's just five touchdowns: 35 points.
Anyway, ever since I launched this newsletter I've been looking for a game that would be fun and strategic, yet help kids grapple directly with the most challenging topic in elementary math: fractions.
I think I found that game. I've seen it by a couple names, but I'll just call it Fraction Fill-In.
As a kid, I always loved the game show Lingo. In the game, players would have five chances to guess a five-letter word. After each guess, their word would light up to let them know which letters were correct, and which letters were in the word but in the wrong position.
These little deduction puzzles are a great way for kids to think strategically, so I perked up when I found a nice mathematical variation: What's My Number?
This is another one of those games that you can pull out in a waiting room or at a restaurant, rather than simply surrendering your phone to your kids. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil.
My son has been working with addends a ton this year in school. Every so often, he brings home a math packet that is full of these things called number bonds, which help young learners break a larger number into two smaller pieces.
He's gotten pretty good at addends (probably all that dice rolling and score keeping), so I decided to give him a little puzzle to keep him occupied when his math packet feels simplistic.
I call it How Many Ways Can You Add to 10?
It's not often that I find a game that I find a game that is easy to teach, free, and beloved by both my 6-year-old son and my 8th grade students.
This game is perfectly suited for a 2nd or 3rd grader who is beginning to learn about multiplication, but it's accessible for younger kids and strategically fun for older ones as well.
I found How Close to 100? through Jo Boaler's helpful site YouCubed, which has a lot of multi-age math tasks and games.
Y'all wanna see a magic trick?
Alright, I have in my hands ten cards. Nothing up my sleeves. Just watch and enjoy: