I invented a maths game and it's awesome. A brand new game to encourage arithmetical manipulation…
To play this game, you need a 100 square (failing that, a Snakes and Ladders board would work just as well, so long as it goes up to 100 in 1s), three counters and three dice (or one die that you can roll three times).
To start the game, you need to come up with a random number between 1 and 100. If you have a phone handy, you can achieve this by simply searching Google or similar for a random number generator (if you have a phone handy, you can also ask Google to roll you three dice as well). If you don’t, you can each pick a number and use those to make a two-digit [semi] random number. However you get it, put a counter on your random number. This is your goal.
The other counters are placed on the first and final square on the board. Decide who starts on 1 and who on 100.
From here on, it’s a simple game of being the first to land your counter on the random number. You do this by rolling three dice and using any of the four operators (add, subtract, divide or multiply) to dictate your moves. The only rule is that you must use multiply at least once. You can decide to add your result to your current place (to move you forwards to 100) or subtract it (moving you towards 1).
I’ve played this game with my students of various ages and they have all loved it. It is a simple concept, so why is it such a good maths game?
Well that all comes down to the amount of estimating, quick calculation and manipulation of numbers that is involved. You see, it’s quite tricky to end up with a 1 (because of the multiplying rule). It not only depends on the numbers you roll but also on how you choose to manipulate those numbers. The result of this is that children begin to estimate very quickly. Realising that a particular result will land them one space away from the goal, they will suddenly decide to back away from it in order to give themselves a better chance of landing on it next time.
They also begin to realise that they can simply ‘jump’ up or down to move a block of 10, which is quicker than moving single spaces each time. In this way, their partition of numbers is reinforced (a useful preparation for rapid mental calculation). On top of this, mental subtraction is practised each move when they assess how far away they are from the goal (followed by further estimation when they start pleading with the dice to land on certain numbers), and multiplication skills are being constantly and randomly rehearsed.
You can shake things up by allowing and disallowing certain operators; you could allow index operators (squares and cubes); you could introduce the concept of working with negative numbers (-2+3x1 is different from 2+3x1, but still within the rules - you’re using the operators after all).
Best of all, it’s free. Give it a go!