From “24”…Graduate up to Countdown.

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending a tournament for the popular school math game “24”.  You know the game…you are given 4 numbers, and can use any of the 4 basic operations (add, subtract, multiply, and divide) to arrive at an answer of 24.
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At our district tournament, school winners competed to be district champion, and all of our 4th and 5th graders attended to provide energy, enthusiasm and support for their peers.  What an exciting morning, and kudos to our elementary staff for organizing a fun morning, all based on this simple math game!

While many of us are familiar with 24, did you know that our friends in the UK have been enjoying a similar game on the TV Game Show “Countdown” for the past 30 years?  In Countdown’s “Numbers Round”, contestants complete a task similar to that of 24: use the 4 operations to get as close as possible to a target number.  Here are the details:

  • There are 24 numbered tiles: each number from 1 to 10 has two tiles, and the “large” numbers 25, 50, 75 and 100 are also included.  6 tiles from the 24 are randomly chosen by the contestant.
  • A 3-digit number is randomly generated, and the contestants must use the 4 basic operations, along with the selected numbers, to reach the target.
  • You do not need to use all 6 numbers, and you may use a number twice, if it appears twice in the list of 6 chosen numbers.
  • Contestants have 30 seconds to work, and earn points based on how close they come to the target.  Note that it is possible for a game to not have a solution.

If you try a search on YouTube, you will find various episodes and clips from the show.  Below is a simulation which demonstrates the game, without having to wade through a host or commercials:

Try this challenge:  your numbers are 3, 5, 7, 7, 9 and 25.  Your target is 997.  Give yourself 30 seconds.  Solution below.

You can do an internet search and find many links to Coundown’s “Numbers Round”, but Graham Hutton’s site explains the rules clearly and provides a neat Flash app which you can use with your classes.

And that challenge I gave you earlier?  Here is a screen cap from the site I referenced above which gives a solution:
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3 responses to “From “24”…Graduate up to Countdown.

  1. flyingcoloursmaths

    (You have a typo – the target should be 997, not 993).

    Also, have you seen this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mCgiaAFCu8 – possibly the finest bit of Countdown numbers game ever.

  2. Thanks for catching the error. I did see the video you reference…the look on the hostess’ face is priceless.

    As an aside, do you find that this game is used in UK schools at all to develop number sense? I become jealous that you all have the “smart” games over there, and we get the dumbed down versions. I was a fan of “The Cube” before we had “Minute to Win It” here is the US.

    • flyingcoloursmaths

      Oh, I had a huge crush on Carol Vorderman when I was about 14 🙂 A game of Countdown was part of the end-of-class entertainment at my school (in the early 90s), but I don’t know if it still is.

      And believe me, the US doesn’t have a monopoly on low-brain TV. Although we do have QI!

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