This Number Race game was devised as a simple computer game. The authors hope it “will enhance mathematical ability…. in children aged four to eight”
How to build a better learner
The idea is to get players to want to win, and thus to count and calculate because they are motivated to do so.
Real World Variant
I have played the computer game and it works very well.
The rewards offered are nice, like getting a butterfly etc. The game play simple and nicely graduating from easy to difficult.
I feel that this sort of game could easily be taken into the real world and made into an exciting class game, promoting team work, self-regulation and competition, plus exercising mathematical thinking.
My particular grumble about the computer game was that there was no pressure to act or think quickly. Perhaps I was playing at too low a level. But it did seem unengaging in its tempo.
This is a design suggestion, I have not experienced playing this game in class.
The game requires a set of cards, each card has a number of gold pieces on them.
Also required is a scoring track which has numbers 0 – 20.
Each team should have a playing piece to use to mark their progress on the scoring track.
Playing the game
Players & Teams
There are four players, two to a team. The players pair off in opposing teams. So player A1 is opposite player B1, and A2 is opposite B2.
Cards & Card Play
The cards are shuffled and then divided into equal two piles, and placed on a table. The two participants stand opposite each other so they are equidistant from the two decks of cards. Another two players then turn the top card over and place them in front of the two active players.
The two active players slap their hand on the card they want, first hand down wins. Mutual consent has to adjudicate in close ties. (This will get noisy, but one of the lessons here is about self-regulation!!) The card thus selected becomes the score for that team. Each player counts the number of coins and moves their piece up the score track. A bonus of +1 is given for the player who gets the larger amount that turn.
The players then change. So the active players, become the card turners, and the card turners go to the back of the queue of the team waiting to play. And the first in line in the queue become the active players.
Scoring and league tables
When one team reaches or passes 20 or whatever the top score is on the score track they win and gain 2 points. If the other team are close (e.g. 15 – 19) then they score 1 point. Any lower and they score 0.
A league table is setup with a fixtures list for each team.
After each game has been decided the scores are marked on the league table.
When all fixtures have been played, we then as a class add up the scores, the teacher involving the team in its own scoring. Bonus points are awarded if the team is able to give their correct score before the teacher does!
Just counting gold coins on cards is a relatively simple task.
I would suggest that more taxing tasks would be to add counterfeit coins, or non-valuable items on the card which have to be ignored or taken away when calculating the sum of the coins on the card.
So on one card their might be 8 gold coins, one silver coin and two fish. Sum = 5!
One variant could be to have all the cards with different items on.
In addition there is an additional pile of cards that has one item on it – e.g. a fish, a silver coin, a gold coin, a crown etc. The item on that card shows the only item that should be counted on the next turned over card.
It might be best to introduce these cards after the basic game has been mastered.
Self regulation, disputes and cheating
This game is particularly open to disputes about who got their hand down first. Think of those family games of Snap!
My approach to this is to explain to all the class that they should get the card turning players to adjudicate in cases of dispute. They can agree to discard the card and change the players and move on. If they are not able to resolve this then the teams are to report their “fixture” as null and void. No score will be recorded for either team.
After all the fixtures have been played a check is made and the team with the most “null and void” marks is the absolute loser.
Hopefully teams will get the message and manage to get on with playing the game and resolve disputes internally.
Downloading the game
The original game is an open source free computer game that can be downloaded from this site – The Number Race The game requires a Java runtime environment.