Trying to find math inside everything else

Archive for the ‘games’ Category

Productive? Failure

The next chapter of Reality Is Broken starts off with this question: “No one likes to fail. So how is it that gamers can spend 80 percent of the time failing, and still love what they are doing?”

It’s an interesting question.  Many games, such as Demon’s Souls, as known for their fiendish difficulty – as that is often portrayed as a positive aspect, not a negative. Dr. McGonigal notes that in one bit of research from the M.I.N.D. Lab, the researchers found that players felt happy when they failed at playing Super Monkey Ball 2 – more so than even when they succeeded. Why would that be?

One thing they noted was that the failure itself was a kind of reward – when the players failed, the scene the played was usually funny. More importantly, though, players knew that their failure was a result of their own actions and symbolic of their own agency – they drove the ball off the course. Because everything was in their control, the players were motivated to give it “just one more try.” I know I’ve certainly had that feeling before – intense concentration on a hard task and then, “Aaaaah!” Coming just short of success, I immediately leap back into trying again.

Of course, that’s not true of every game. There are many games where failing makes me want to give up. There’s two main elements that differentiate the two – agency and hope. If failure is random and feels out of our control, it is demotivating. (Think Mario Kart when you get slammed with a slew of items right before the finish, when you were in 1st place.) But if we see that the failure was fully within our control – and another attempt shows us getting ever so slightly closer to that goal – then the hope of success can feel even better than success itself.

This feeds off of the idea that learning is inherently interesting. When you win at a game, you are successful – but then what do you do? But when you fail, you are learning how to play the game well, and that learning and the act of mastering the game’s mechanics is what is so motivating.

As math teachers, we often talk about Productive Failure – the idea that our students learn better by attempting something themselves, failing, and correcting, than by simply being instructed on the correct method ahead of time. The theory of this is matched by many of our observations (and by research) – but we often have the problem of people being shut down by failure. It ties in a lot with math anxiety and attitudes about math – if I think I am bad at math and that’s just the way it is, failure if just reinforcing that idea, not motivating me to try again.

In the book, Dr. McGonigal doesn’t talk about productive failure – she talks about fun failure. The key factors she mentions – a sense of agency and hope – are what’s so often missing from our math-phobic students. Math feels out of their control – and so any success is accidental, and any failure is predestined.

What can we do? Our main goal is to be a guide – because failure is productive for learning, we want to help the student overcome it themselves. And that means doing what we can to provide that sense of agency and hope.

For a gaming example, Rob was playing a game and was struggling against a particularly frustrating boss (Moldorm from A Link to the Past) – a single false move in the fight would knock him out of the room and he would have to start the whole thing over. Even though he had been having a lot of the fun with the game, this single frustrating experience was enough to make him consider giving up on the game altogether. I knew he would enjoy the rest of the game and wanted him to keep playing, so I stepped into action. One thing I did was provide him with the locations of some fairies – while they would not directly help him defeat the boss, they would lower the frustration of dying and having to repeat the dungeon. The second thing I did was just to watch his attempts.

After a while, when he was ready to give up, he said something to the effect of how he had tried over and over again but had gotten nowhere. But I told him that was not true – when he first tried, he would maybe get 1 hit, or perhaps none, off on the boss before being knocked off the ledge. But in later attempts, he was getting around 4 or 5. He had greatly improved in his tries – and so if he kept trying, he might succeeded. He conceded that might be true, but still took a break, frustrated and tired.

The next morning, I looked up some info and found that the boss only required 6 hits to be defeated – so that meant that in the last attempt, Rob had been very close to success! When I told him that, he was filled with hope (and well-rested), and upon loading up the game, proceeded to beat the boss on the first attempt of the day.

Our goal is productive failure, not frustration. When we are following the mantra of “be less helpful,” I think we still need to help in a different way – help dispel frustration and provide the tools for success, even if we are not telling the students the path they need to take. Be less helpful seems like a hands-off policy – but it’s quite the opposite; we need to devote even more attention to our students when we are letting them struggle on their own.

Satisfying Work

Earlier this year, Justin Aion wrote a post about how he tried to make his class boring on purpose by just giving silent independent work, to make them appreciate what he was normally doing, and how it backfired gloriously. At first, he wondered what he can do to break them of this preference for what they are used to and what is easy. About two months after that, we wrote about a similar situation, and wondered the following:

I’m beginning to wonder if my attempts to give them more engaging lessons and activities have burned them out.  I’m not giving up on the more involved activities.  I want them to be better at problem solving, but I think by trying to do it every day, I haven’t done a good job of meeting them where they are and helping to be where I want them to be.

As I read more of Reality Is Broken, though, I encountered an alternative explanation. In the book, Jane McGonigal wonders why so many people play games like World of Warcraft and other such MMORPGs where the gameplay is not, shall we say, the most thrilling. Many people find enjoyment in what other players call “grinding,” playing with the sole purpose of leveling up. In general, it’s a lot of work to level up in the game to get to what is considered the “good” part of the game, raiding in the end game.

But it’s work that people enjoy doing, and that’s because it is satisfying work. Dr. McGonigal defines satisfying work as work that has a clear goal and actionable next steps. She then goes on to say –

What if we have a clear goal, but we aren’t sure how to go about achieving it? Then it’s not work – it’s a problem. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having interesting problems to solve; it can be quite engaging. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to satisfaction. In the absence of actionable steps, our motivation to solve a problem might not be enough to make real progress. Well-designed work, on the other hand, leaves no doubt that progress will be made. There is a guarantee of productivity built in, and that’s what makes it so appealing.

Well, now, doesn’t that sound familiar? It kinda hit me in the gut when I read it. As math teachers, we are often preaching that we are trying to teach “problem solving” skills – but the thing is, people don’t like solving problems! It made make think of those poor grad students who are working towards their PhD – grad school burnout is a big issue, and one of the major contributing factors is that grad students are trying to solve problems, and so often feel like they are getting nowhere. Their work is inherently unsatisfying, which makes those that can finish a rare breed.

Our students, of course, are not all made of such stuff. But I’m not at all suggesting we drop our attempts at teaching problem solving and only give straight-forward work. Rather, I feel like we need to find a balance – for the past year, as I embraced a Problem-Based Curriculum, I may have pushed too far in the problem-solving direction, and found my students yearning for straight-forward worksheets, just as Justin did. But they also enjoyed tackling these problems, especially when they solved them, and I do think they had more independence and problem-solving skills by the end of the year.

So what should I do? Dr. McGonigal ends the chapter by noting that even high-powered CEOs take short breaks to play computer games like Solitaire or Bejeweled during the work day – it makes them less stressed and feel more productive, even if it doesn’t directly relate to what they are doing. (This reminds me of the recess debate in elementary school.) So even as I go forward with my problem-solving curriculum, I need to weave in more concrete work, and everyone will be more satisfied by it.

The Problem with Gamification in Education

(I suppose I shouldn’t say “the” problem, because there are many problems that I won’t be directly addressing, like extrinsic vs internal motivation.)

I’ve read a lot about gamification in the classroom, and while I’ve often thought about it and borrowed some elements from it, I’ve never gone whole hog. The motivation aspect is one of the reasons, but today, as I started reading Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal, I realized there’s more to it.

In the first part of the book, Dr. McGonigal provides a definition of games. A game has four defining features: a goal, a set of defined rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. And if you think about gamification, you can easily pick out which of those elements is missing.

Because schooling is mandatory and, if you are taking a particular class, the gamification of that class is also mandatory, gamification of ed itself is not a game. If I gamify my chores by playing ChoreWars, I am choosing to take part in that game (even if the chores need to be done regardless). But if my teacher chooses to use a system of leveling up and roleplaying in my class, it is no longer a game; it is a requirement.

When I tried to think, then, about what in education would best fit these four requires, the first thing that came to mind is BIG, Shawn Cornally‘s school in Iowa. There students choose to participate in some project of their own devising, creating the goal and the voluntary participation. Then it is the school’s job to provide the feedback and the rules.

(An aside on the importance of rules – Dr. McGonigal quotes Bernard Suits who said, “Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” The rules are those unnecessary obstacles, and the excellent example given was golf. The goal of golf is to get the golf ball in the hole, but if we did that the most efficient way (walking up to the hole and dropping it in), we would get little enjoyment from it. But by implementing the rules of the game, we make the goal harder to achieve and thus much more fulfilling.)

So the big warning to those who want to gamify their classroom is this: if you require it, it’s not a game, no matter what game elements you include.

The Factor Draft

Last year at #TMC13, I ran a session called Making Math Games. I stared off with an overview of what makes a game a good game, while still being good math pedagogy as well. Then we spent most of the session in two groups brainstorming idea for games for topics that are somewhat of a drag to get through. The other group worked on something in Algebra 2, though I don’t recall what – I must say both groups were supposed to write up what we did and neither did. (But I do think Sean Sweeney was in the other group, so maybe he remembers.)

My group worked on a game for factoring, focusing on Algebra 1. I took the ideas from the session and made a mostly operational game. Then, about 2 months ago, Max Ray came to visit me on the day I was unveiling that game in class. He saw it and it worked out…okay, but here was definitely improvements to be made. So we talked over lunch (about many things, not just the game – he’s great to talk to!) and then tried out some changes with my lunch gang. The changes seemed to work and I went forward with the new version in my afternoon classes to great success. By the end I think I had a really wonderful game, and so I wanted to share it with you.

The Materials

A set of Factor Draft cards includes 3 differently-colored decks. Mine, pictured here, were green, blue, and yellow. One deck (green here) is the factor cards, with things like (x + 2) and (x – 1) written on them. Another deck (blue) is the sum cards, with numbers like 10x or -4x. The last deck (yellow) is the product cards, with numbers like +36 or -15.

The Set-up

Lay out the cards as follows: make a 3 x 6 rectangle of factor cards, a 4×3 rectangle of sum cards, and a 4×3 rectangle of product cards, all face up. Place the remaining cards in separate piles next to the playing area.

Board Set-up

In the cards I printed, I didn’t put the Xs on the blue sum cards. Max suggested I do because it’s easy to be confused on which is which.


The Objective

The goal of the game is to collect 4 cards that can be used to complete a true statement of the following form: (factor card)(factor card) = x^2 + (sum card) + (product card).


Each turn, a player may select any card from the playing field and place it face-up in front of them. They then replace that card with a new card of the same color from the deck. Play passes to the left. A player may have any number of cards in front of them, and may use any four cards to build a winning hand.

The cards I collected after turn 6. There's two possible cards I could pull to win the game - can you see which ones?

The cards I collected after turn 5. There’s two possible cards I could pull to win the game – can you see which ones?

If at any point a player achieves victory, if they had more turns than the other players, they must allow the other players additional turns to attempt to tie. Upon a tie, discard the winning cards and continue play as a tie-breaker.

A winning hand.

A winning hand.


My co-teacher, when we were testing the game, said that it felt like Connect 4, in that with each move you have to decide whether to go on the offense to try and complete your four cards, or go on the defense and block the other players’ sets. But as each player gets more and more cards in front of them, it’s hard to see all of the connections and effectively block, so the game will always eventually lead to victory.

I may need to adjust the number of cards and type of cards in the decks, but I think what I currently have works well – if you have any feedback on the card distribution, let me know. The sum cards go from -10 to +10, with the numbers closer to 0 more common. The product cards go from -60 to +60, with each product card being unique. And the factor cards go from (x-10) to (x+10), also with the ones closer to 0 being more common. (There are no (x+0) cards.)

I did a whole little analysis to determine how many of each type of card to include…but maybe that’s a post for another day.


Sum:Product Deck – The first four pages are the sum deck, the next four are the product deck, the last four are the factor deck.

Factor Draft Play Mat and Rules – Players can use these mats to place their cards and check for a win.

A Boss Fight?

One of the things about arranging your grading system like a game, as well as being a math game aficionado, is that it is pretty easy to combine the two. While yes, students can take quizzes or write essays to gain levels, they can also beat me in a math game. Of course, I’m not easy to beat, so winning against me would really show some mastery. (I do, though, allow them to gang up on me when the game is more than 2 players.)

The only students that really challenge me are the ones that hang out in my room at lunch, even though I’ve offered the challenge to everyone. And it’s cute because when they do lose they get even more determined, often because they may lose by a very small margin. (This is occasionally by design.)

The only game I’ve lost so far is Blokus, where the two Kevins beat me (but my score was still above the 4th player). As a reward, I gave them a level in Visualizer, as I figured that was the most applicable skill to winning the game. Planning ahead and visualizing paths in your mind is a useful skill. That same skill is the reward if they beat me in Ricochet Robots. In that game a team of Jane and Kevin tied me, so I still gave them reward, but they didn’t win.

It’s interesting trying to match games with skills. For example, the reward for winning at 24 is Tinkerer (since you need to play with numbers and try different things to succeed). It’s easy for games I made myself: if they can win at the Factor Draft (an upcoming post, I swear), they are a master of factoring. I have considered giving some points, not quite mastery, if they win against their classmates or my co-teacher, but to be a master, you gotta beat the final boss.

I’d love to have a bigger collection of games that I can use as assessment of skills, not just algebraic skills but the Standards of Practice as well. Any suggestions?

Scrabble Variant

(inspired to post by Anne’s 30-Day Blog Challenge)

So I was playing Scrabble last night (I lost – it’s one of those board games I’m not the best at) when we talked about how, when you are playing with good competent players, the board often winds up with knots of small words close together.


Kinda like this one.

So we talked about how we could promote long and fun words instead of those same short words all the time, and thought you could have a variant where you get bonus points based on how long your word is, regardless of which letters you use or where you place it.

Such a bonus somewhat already exists – you get a 50 point bonus if you use all 7 of your tiles. So we thought we could add other bonuses for other lengths. We agreed we should keep the 50 point bonus for 7, and that you shouldn’t get a bonus for only using 1 letter. As well, we thought a 2 tile go should get 1 point as a bonus. So I said I could definitely model it from there.

I tried to feed those data points into Wolfram Alpha for a fit but they provided linear, logarithmic, and period fits, all of which were terrible. I then forced them on a quadratic fit (after all, 3 points make a parabola), which was alright, although maybe too many points for a 6 tile play. Then I did an exponential one (though I had to use (1,0.1) since Wolfram didn’t like using (1,0) in an exponential fit, as if we couldn’t shift the curve down.) Then I just fed them into Desmos and rounded.

Below are the graphs and the tables for each fit. What do you think of this variant? Which point spread would be better? Of course, we’d have to play it to see….

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 12.17.04 PM


Intentions Change Approach (DragonBox 2 vs DragonBox 1)

So since I first had my students play DragonBox last year, We Want to Know came out with a sequel, DragonBox 2. They are now branded as 5+ and 12+, as the original DragonBox is intended to introduce the idea of algebra and solving equations to someone unfamiliar with it, while DragonBox 2 is meant to deepen the equation-solving toolbox of someone already familiar with solving equations, allowing them to deal with more complex equations.

I was trying to decide which one to use with my class this year. It seemed like DragonBox2 would be better at first glance, because I teach high schoolers: we have seen basic equations, and now we need to kick it up a notch. But I wound up going with DragonBox 1, saving the sequel for a handful of students who blazed through it and were advanced. I know I made the right choice because of situations like I tweeted about:


There were several students who could solve the first level (one of the hardest in the game), but not the second, which came later. This showed me that there was something about the structure of an equation that wasn’t getting through and that we needed to work on it.

In DragonBox 1, you only really have four abilities: you can combine inverses into 0, you can divide a card by itself to get 1, you can add a card from the deck to the game (one on each side), and you can attach a card from the deck to another (multiplication/division), as long as you do it to every card in the level. In DragonBox 2, you can do new things like flip a card from one side to the other, divide a night version by a day version (leaving negative 1), combine like terms, factor out common terms, and treat complex expressions as single units to multiply/divide by.

Those are all good things to do, and someone proficient in algebra should be able to do those things. But I backed away from using it in class because it lacked the why. At the end of the first DragonBox lesson, I compile the notes students took while playing to make a comprehensive list of rules and abilities you have in the game. The one student who played DragonBox2 insisted that, in the game, you can slide a card from one side to the other. No matter how much I pressed him, he didn’t see that the card wasn’t sliding over, it was flipping/inverting.

And that’s what I was afraid of by using DragonBox2. These tools are important, but they have to be earned by understanding them. DragonBox2 gives them to you by completing previous levels, not necessarily by understanding how. At the least, in DragonBox 1, because you are stuck with the basics, you have to grapple with where the solutions come from. They can’t magically appear.

So while DragonBox2 is rated as 12+, I wouldn’t give it to any student who didn’t already have a firm grasp on the concept of equality. Maybe post-Algebra 1. Or at least not until much later in the year.

Set Building Game

(For Explore MTBoS Mission #1)

So I came up with this semi-game last year, based on Frank Noschese’s Subversive Lab Grouping activity. My students had already done that activity at the beginning of the year, so they were familiar with the cards and the idea that the groups were not always what they appeared.

This time, I gave each student a badge that had two words on it: one word on the front, and one word on the back. I asked the students to create groups of 3-4 students using either of their two words. After they formed a group, they had to come up with a description of their group that applied to ALL of their members but ONLY to their members.

This was tricky because of the set of words that I chose, which I had displayed at the front of the room. Set Game List.007

Almost any group of 4 you could create would have some errant fifth member that would fit. And I was VERY adamant that they could not have more than 4 people in a group, no matter how much they asked. So the students needed to use set operations to include or exclude other words. For example, if the students were {Arizona, Brooklyn, Georgia, Virginia} they might say “Our group is the set of x such that x is a girl’s name AND x is a location AND x is NOT Asian.”

Often students would give sentences that weren’t quite precise enough, so I (and later other students in the class) would push back. “Wait! China is a girl’s name and a location.” “Okay, so we’ll add ‘AND x is not Asian.” This caused them to think deeply about what the actual definitions of their group were, and to be careful with being precise. If they weren’t precise enough, they would let other words into their group.

After we got the gist, the groups would then either come up with a description and see if the other students could guess their members OR list their members and see if the other students could figure our their description.

Each round, I had the groups write down on an accompanying sheet their group in Roster Notation, Set Builder Notation, and draw a Venn Diagram where they shaded in where their group lies. So through this I introduce the different notation we use, intersections, and complements. (That left only unions and interval notation for the next day.) I also included pictures of 4-way and 5-way Venn diagrams, in case they needed it.


Set Cards (pdf – formatted for name-tag size)

Set Game Worksheet (pdf)

Set Game Worksheet (pages)

We Didn’t Playtest This At All

Yesterday was my best friend’s birthday and his wife got him the game We Didn’t Playtest This At All, which is a very silly game that was tons of fun. (We probably played it about 15 times.) The point of the game is to win or, barring that, to make everyone else lose. And that’s all the rules there are, other than Draw 1, Play 1. Everything else is in the cards.

One set of cards in the game has players all throw out 1 to 5 fingers on the count of three:

Huh, I just noticed that it's a Star Card, so you actually know if that's the one the person is playing!

Since you don’t know what card they are playing, even and odd really don’t matter. But winning on a prime…that’s interesting.

As I was leaving, I started to wonder if there was a best number you could throw out to maximize your chances of winnings (or, alternately, stopping to person who played the card from winning). Talking about it with another math teacher who was there, I hypothesized that, because of the lower density of prime numbers as numbers get larger, you’d want to throw smaller numbers to increase your chances of getting a prime.

But, of course, I couldn’t just leave that conjecture. I had to test it! For the purposes of this, I assumed all other players besides yourself throw out a random number of fingers, essentially becoming 5-sided dice.

It’s pretty simple to compute for two players:

  • If I throw out a 1, it’ll be prime if my opponent throws 1, 2, or 4.
  • If I throw 2, she needs to throw 1, 3, or 5.
  • If I throw 3, she needs to throw 2 or 4.
  • If I throw 4, she needs to throw a 1 or 3.
  • If I throw a 5, she needs to throw a 2.

This supports my hypothesis: throwing a 1 or 2 increase the odds of a prime, and a 5 radically decreases them. (Of course, then we can get all game theoretical — if I know you’re gonna throw 5, I should throw 2. But then, if you know that, you should throw 4, etc.)

What about for more than 2 players? The game box says we can have up to 10. I worked it out somewhat in my notebook on my train ride home, but then I had the power of Excel. (It actually took me longer than I would like to admit to re-figure out how to find the probabilities of, say, getting a total of 12 when 3 people throw out. I was counting up all the possibilities for a while until I realized the recursive method for calculating those probabilities. And if Wolfram-Alpha hadn’t been so hard to use in this regard, I might not have figured it out myself.)

Three to Five Players

On the left are the probabilities that you opponents’ total will be a certain number. On the right is the number of ways you can get prime if you throw out that number.

 For three players, 1 is still the champ is terms of getting you a prime, but surprisingly, 5 is second place! What had been the worst number to throw out to get primes for 2 players is now the second best with 3 players. And for 4 players, 1 and 5 are actually the worst (though only slightly), with 2, 3, and 4 coming out on top. But at this point, it’s pretty balanced. 5 players is almost equally likely no matter what you throw. It’s almost as if they playtested this?

But now, the pattern emerges.

But now, the pattern emerges.

When I extended to 6 or 7 players, though, it became clear that 1 really was the true winner and 5 the worst. Once we were out of the weeds of the prime-heavy teens, the hypothesis seems more true. (It also holds for 8 players.) Of course, I haven’t proven that it will always be true for 6+ players…but I leave that as an exercise to the reader.


Math Games

Back in January I participated in a panel on Math Games over at the Global Math. I meant to write this follow-up post shortly after, but January was a hell of a month for me and it slipped to the wayside. See my talk here, at the 2:55 mark.

I sorta hit the same point over and over, using six different games as examples, but that’s because I truly believe it is the most important point in both designing math games as well as choosing which games to use in your classroom. If the math action required is separate from the game action performed, then it will seem forced and lead students to believe that math is useless.

Global Math - Math Games.003This can be fine if you want. Maybe you want to play a trivia game, where the knowledge action is separate from the game action. But if you pretend that they are the same, then you have problems.

This is the same essential argument as the one against psuedocontext. It may seem like you could say “It’s just a game,” but students see it as a shallow way to spice something up that can’t stand on its own. (I’m not saying review games and trivia games don’t have their place, but they can’t expand beyond their place.)

Below are the six examples I gave, with the breakdown of their game action and math action. I hope to use what I learned in this process to have us make a new, better math game in the summer, during Twitter Math Camp.

Example 1 – Math Man

A Pac-Man game where you can only eat a certain ghost, depending on the solution to an equation.

Global Math - Math Games.005

If we apply the metric above and think about what is the math action and what is the game action? Here, the math actions are simplifying expressions and adding/subtracting, but the game actions are navigating the maze and avoiding ghosts. If I’m a student playing this game, I want to play Pac-Man. The math here is preventing me from playing the game, not aiding me, which makes me resentful towards that math.

Verdict: Bad

Example 2: Ice Ice Maybe

Global Math - Math Games.008In this game, you help penguins cross a shark filled expanse by placing a platform for them to bounce over. Because of a time limit, you can’t calculate precisely where the platform needs to go, so you need to estimate. That skill is both the math action and the game action, so that alignment means that this game accomplishes its goal.

Verdict: Good

Example 3: Penguin Jump

Global Math - Math Games.011Here you pick a penguin, color them, and then race other people online jumping from iceberg to iceberg. The problem is that the math action is multiplying, which is not at all the same. The game gets worse, though, because AS the multiplying is preventing you from getting to the next iceberg, because maybe you are not good at it yet, you visibly see the other players pulling ahead, solidifying in your mind that you are bad at math, at exactly the point when you need the most support. A good math game should be easing you into the learning, not penalizing you when you are at your most vulnerable point, the beginning of your learning.

Verdict: Terrible

Example 4: FactortrisGlobal Math - Math Games.014

This is a game that seems like it has potential: given a number, factor that number into a rectangle (shout-out to Fawn Nguyen here in my talk), then drop the block you created by factoring to play Tetris.

Again, the math action is factoring whole numbers and creating visual representations, which are good actions. But the game action is dropping blocks into a space to fill up lines. As Megan called it, though, we have a carrot and stick layout here, and often in many games. Do the math, and you get to play a game afterwards. (Also, the Tetris part doesn’t really pan out, because all the blocks are rectangles, which is the most boring game of Tetris ever.)

Verdict: Bad

Example 5: DragonboxGlobal Math - Math Games.017

I’ve written about Dragonbox before, so I won’t write about it too much here. The goal of Dragonbox is to isolate the Dragon Box by removing extraneous monsters and cards. The math actions include combining inverses to zero-out or one-out, or to isolate variables. The game action is to combine day/night cards to swirl them out, or isolate the dragon box. The game action is in perfect alignment with the math action, which makes the game very engaging and very instructive.

Verdict: Good

Example 6: Totally RadicalPlaying the Root

The board game I created last year (and you can also make your own free following instructions here, or buy at the above link). In this game, the game actions were designed to match up with math actions. Simplifying a radical by moving a root outside the radical sign, as in the picture above, is done by playing the root card outside and removing the square from the inside (and keeping it as points).Global Math - Math Games.021 You also need to identify when a radical is fully simplified, which you do in game actions by slapping the board (because everything is better with slapping) and keeping the cards there as points.

Verdict: Good

Final Note

One of the real challenges of finding good math games, as a teacher, is curriculum. Most math teachers know of several good math games, like Set or Blokus. While these games are great and very mathematical, they’re not the math content that we usually need to teach in our classes. So the challenge falls on us to create our own games, but making good math games is hard. (Making bad ones is pretty easy.) On that note, if you know of some good math games (that meet the criteria mentioned in this post), drop a line in the comments!