A recent visit to a 6th-grade classroom gave me a chance to introduce a simple game I have used in the past as an-going challenge. Even after a few pop-ins to this 6th grade class, I am still undefeated, and don’t plan on giving up my championship belt anytime soon!
THE TAKE-AWAY GAME – Rules
On a board, or piece of paper, draw 23 X’s. Players will alternate turns, and on each turn a player must erase 1, 2 or 3 X’s. The winner is the player who erases the last X.
It’s an easy game to understand. An example is given here:
With a class, I will give students a chance to use dry-erase boards and play against each other. Then, as students begin to understand the game, they are allowed to challenge me. This usually ends badly (for them), as I know the tricks to the game. I start by asking the player if they would like to go first, or allow me to go first. Since kids are usually nice, they will allow me to go first, and this sets them up for certain doom. Also, I will use my best poker skills to agonize over my moves, though I know exactly where I want to go with my moves.
Eventually, students will gather around to suggest moves. Their first realization is that if I get the board down to 4 Xs, I will win. This will then extend to 8 remaining. With some classes, I have placed a fist behind my back, and done a thumbs-up to signal those watching when I know I have the game won. Shoot me an e-mail if you need thorough instructions on how to win.
As students master the game, we can ask some extension questions:
- Does the number of X’s we draw change the game? What if we use 25, 35, or 50 X’s?
- What if we could erase 4, 5, 6 or n number of X’s? How would the strategy change?
For now, play the game with your students, and I look forward to retaining my Inter-Galactic Take-Away Game Championship Belt!