My students have been playing a lot of games this year.
With board games and puzzles, the opportunities for learning and curricular connections are endless. Here are some things I’ve noticed while observing and playing the games with my students:
- Students reading and following instructions.
- Problem solving to understand multistep directions.
- Collaboration and inclusion.
- Math talk.
- Community building.
- Innovating to add variations to games.
- Respectful dialogue.
- Willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes.
- Strategic thinking.
- Fun and laughter.
- Stronger sense of their place in the world.
- Deep thinking and learning.
- Springboards to inquiry and further learning.
- A stronger sense of concepts and information learned.
We have added a wide variety of puzzles and games to our classroom this year. Some are “low organizational” (Shut the Box, Yahtzee, Connect 4, Qwirkle, Scrabble, Jenga, Labyrinth, Spot It, Farkle) while others are “subject specific” games with a focus on Social Studies (Explore Canada, Explore the World and World Geo Puzzles). They really have been “game changers” in many different ways.
SHUT THE BOX!
One of our new favourite games that we’ve adapted for our whole class to enjoy is a variation of an old seafaring game called “Shut the Box”. The kids love it because it’s fast, fun and very strategic. I love the game because it allows me to listen to my kids “talk math”. Every move that that a player makes in Shut the Box is based on math strategies. Here’s how it’s played: Our game requires dice, paper and a pencil. The students write the numbers from one to twelve (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12) on a piece of paper. The object of the game is to eliminate as many numbers as possible, ending up with the lowest possible score. The dice are rolled. Say a 6 and 2 are rolled. The student may multiply the numbers together and cross off the 12. The student may divide the numbers and cross off the 3. The student may subtract the numbers and cross off the 4. Finally, the student may add the two numbers together and cross off the 8 OR any two numbers that make the sum of 8 (1 and 7, 2 and 6, 3 and 5). Once a decision is made play continues and the dice are rolled again. Play continues until the player can no longer eliminate a number. Once this happens the child adds to find the sum of the left over numbers. The child with the lowest total score “wins”. (Watch for a video tutorial coming soon.)
The game can be played as a whole class, in groups, pairs or individually. It can also be modified to accommodate for the varying math abilities in your class. I simply LOVE this game because there is so much math involved and the kids naturally think out loud when playing this game. I always encourage my students to use math terminology (sum, difference, product, quotient, theoretical probability, etc) and to explain their reasoning to a partner.
While writing this blog, my students suggested that perhaps we could invite others classes throughout the world to join us in a big global game of Shut the Box. I like their out of the box/text/classroom thinking! Let us know if you’re interested!