I will be teaching Essentials for my new Classical Conversations community this fall, and this past week has been full of reworking some materials to make them more visually appealing to students. As a Foundations tutor last year, I really took to heart Leigh Bortins’ advice of “stick in the sand,” sometimes a difficult task for a graphic designer/photographer who loves to make things look pretty. However, as I thought more about some of the more popular math games that my kids played last year, I thought that it would be fun to make them a bit more colorful.

I reworked both of these gameboards, printed them on white cardstock, and laminated them together so that they are well protected and you can just choose the side you want to play. No fuss, no muss, and they should be very durable.


Playing Board Slam (or Beat the Board)

Divide your students into groups of 2 or 3 (or they can play individually) and give each set of kids 3 dice. The kids (either in teams or individually) have to use all 3 numbers ONCE in a math problem such that their answer is one of the 36 numbers on the board. When they get that number, they can cross it off (markers, coins, etc.). Once a number is crossed off, they don’t need to try and get that result again and should instead focus on getting the rest of the numbers crossed off.

The students can add, subtract, multiply, divide, square or cube a number, or use the exponent of zero (any number to the zero power is 1). When called on, they should say the whole math sentence so that everyone else can follow along and see how they reached that number. For example, if the numbers are 2, 5, 6, they might say “6 x 5 is 30, 30 to the zero power is 1, 2 minus 1 is 1.” Then they can cross off 1 from their gameboard. Another example using those same numbers could be “2 x 6 is 12, 12 plus 5 is 17” and they would mark off 17.

You can play this just like bingo, giving points for the first team to get a row across, up & down, or diagonally or you can let each team play to see which one can get everything marked off first (blackout). It’s helpful if a parent supervises a team to confirm their math and to keep the noise levels manageable! πŸ™‚

Playing Make it Texas- or Rhode Island-Size!
The point of this game is to make the biggest (Texas-size) or smallest (Rhode Island-size) number possible from a hand of 5 numbered tiles (Rummicube tiles are the perfect size for these boards but you could also use cards and do away with the boards completely). Divide your students into teams of 2 or 3 and give each team a board and a bag of Rummicube tiles (usually 12-15 tiles in a ziplock baggie). Have one person on the team choose 5 tiles without looking at them and turn them face down on the colored tiles below the dashed lines. Leave the red “throw away” square empty. Players then take turns turning over a tile and immediately placing it on one of the number dashes above the tiles. The object is to make the smallest number possible but since no one knows exactly which tiles were drawn, there’s a lot of luck involved. Big numbers obviously need to go in the front of the number (if you’re playing Texas size) with smaller numbers toward the end of the number. If you turned over a 9, for example, you would put it in the 1st position. If you turned over a 1, it would go in the last position. If you turn over a number and aren’t quite sure where to put it, you can also use the “throw away” tile. Once all 5 tiles are turned over and in place, look at the number and see if you were able to correctly guess the positions. If not, the team should discuss which number needed to move to which position to make the biggest number. Play is exactly the same for “Rhode Island Size” except the goal is to create the smallest possible number. It’s helpful to rotate the bags of Rummicube tiles among the students after they’ve played a few hands, too, so that they get a good variety of number combinations.

Download “Make it Texas- or Rhode Island-Size!”

Download Colorful Board Slam