Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Arithmetic Games

If you need to get good at math, there a game much more fun than combining arithmetic problems and the card game War.

It's an old game called Twenty-Four.

The game requires four 10-sided dice and a chalkboard or whiteboard. (The chalkboard or whiteboard can be a small one. Paper will do, but is not as fun for kids to use.) Roll all four dice to get four random numbers (0's count as tens). If a player can think of a new way to add, subtract, multiply, or divide to make 24 using each number once and only once, he or she goes to the board, writes the solution down, and initials it. When the players agree that the set of numbers showing on the dice have no new solutions, the dice are re-rolled. Play until you are tired of the game, at which point whoever has initialed the largest number of solutions on the chalkboard wins.

For example, if the dice showed 6, 5, 3, 2 then four solutions would be:
6 x (5 + 2 - 3) = 24
(5 + 3) x (6 / 2) = 24
(6 x 2) x (5 - 3) = 24
(6 x 5) - (3 x 2) = 24

UPDATE: "What if my child only knows addition and subtraction?"

Then play an even more historical classic game, Pig.

The game requires one die and a paper to keep score. Traditionally a six-sided die is used, but any die will work. Players take turn rolling the die. Players start with 0 points and try to accumulate points.

The game proceeds in rounds. A round involves possibly several die rolls. Before each die roll players decide whether they will "go" or "be safe". Then the person whose turn it is to roll the die does so. If the die roll is not a 1 then all players who are "going" add the value of their die to their running total of points for that round. But if the die roll is a 1 (called a "pig" for reasons I do not know) then the round is over and all players who are "going" lose all their running total of points for that round.

So every player will choose to "go" for the first die roll of the round, and afterwards decide if the round has progressed with enough points that it is worth being "safe".

The number of points needed to win varies based on what die is being used, since a twenty-sided die will accumulate points much faster than a six-sided die.

To practice subtraction, start with points and count down. To practice multiplication, change each die roll to a pair of dice and for the possible points accumulated use their product (a "pig" then happens if either die rolls a 1).