Saturday, March 1, 2014

Integer War Meets Bunco. They Marry.

. . . and live happily ever after.

Like many of the things I post about, this is something that I've been wanting to write about for a long time. It has taken me so long because my pictures are not how I envisioned they should look, and I haven't had any time to recreate the moment in order to recapture the dream pictures.

As chance would have it, I had that opportunity yesterday, but I pooh-poohed it when I jumped in and played the game with my students. I don't regret it though, because it was a blast and it turned out to be a good thing for my students as well. 

In case you didn't notice, that was the disclaimer for my less than stellar pictures.

Forget the pictures though, the game itself is the star here. Lots of teachers use this game to practice math facts of different variations with their students, and I am in no way responsible for its invention, however, I do love it and I want to share it because I'm sure there are others out there that don't know about it as I did not until recently.

All that's required to play is a standard deck of playing cards for each pair of students. To start, pull all the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Jokers out of the deck and set them aside. Divide the remaining cards into even piles for each player.

Each player turns over one card in their pile at the same time. There's no peeking ahead of time.

The player that blurts out the sum or the product first (decide ahead of time if students will be adding card values or multiplying) wins that hand and gets to keep those cards. The person with the most cards at the end of a round wins.

The red suited cards (diamonds and hearts) represent negative integers, and the black suited cards (spades and clubs) represent positive integers. Aces count as 1.

Students must say positive or negative when they blurt out their answers. If there is a tie, each player turns over another card, and the winner claims all four cards down.

Play continues until one player has all the cards in the deck.

Those are the basic rules. Some variations are as follows:
  1. Multiplication Facts (no positive or negative values apply)
  2. Addition or Subtraction Facts
  3. Highest Value or Lowest Value
  4. Highest or Lowest Absolute Value
  5. Subtraction of Integers
  6. Division of Integers (challenging)
  7. Exponents
The possibilities are practically endless. Please add any you have in the comments.

When I first learned about this game from a colleague, Lenae, she suggested it would probably be fun to use a Bunco format to keep things interesting. It also allows for a natural sifting to occur, thereby pairing students off with other students of equal ability levels.

I really like the Bunco format. It's fast-paced, competitive and the students really get into it.

The downside for me is that I have the memory and attention span of a gnat, so I get confused about which table to rotate to next. We all have students like that as well, although I've never met one as skilled as myself.

You probably think I'm kidding, but really I'm not. I have a group that I play Bunco with when I have the time, and I'm so bad that I had to make numbered cones for the tables so I didn't have to keep asking everyone which table I go to next. I have to look at the cones every time I move too. My friends keep the cones with the dice and probably only have to break the cones out when I show up. No lie.

I knew I would have to do the same thing to play this format with my kids. They would probably be fine without the numbers, but there might be others like myself out there, and I need to be able to tell confused students which table to go to, therefore the numbers.

If I could have the numbers on flashing runway lights, that would be even better, but for me it's just disposable cups with numbers drawn on with a Sharpie.

I'm high class like that.

Anyway, when we play, a round takes as long as it takes the head table (the highest numbered table) to run through their deck of cards once, not until one person has all the cards. Then all the winners from each table move up to the next table, following the visual path the cups provide, to their next player. The only difference is at the head table, instead of the winner moving, it's the loser that moves to table 1 and the winner stays to play the winner from the table below it. As you can imagine, there's some pretty intense competition to get to the head table and hold the title.

My class got so loud yesterday that the teacher next door told me that his class wasn't able to hear their movie over the cheering and jeering coming from my classroom. My bad.

Seriously, who says math isn't fun? It's so much fun, I can't even stand it.

Yesterday I had to jump in to play because I had an odd number of students, but I came up with a solution for that. Instead of playing with your students, you can have a table with three players. It works out fine as long as they aren't at the head table because the loser moves at the head table, and with three players you have two losers with only one spot to move to. This way, the two losers stay at the table and the winner moves so there is never a student with no place to go.

Does that make any sense?

I especially recommend the table with three players for an odd number of students if it's the first time your class plays the game, because it's nice to walk around and monitor and correct misconceptions.

Alternately, it's a lot of fun to play with the students too, and I can "let them win" when I want to build confidence, although to be honest, there are a few students that beat me fair and square. Also, when they play with me, it's an opportunity for them to practice their skills without the pressure of being fast or being embarrassed when they're wrong. Also, I can provide positive feedback and explain why an answer is positive or negative.

I know you noticed that all my cards are from Casinos, right?

That's because I'm a teacher and I make so much money that I can afford to gamble. Ha ha. jk.

Actually, that would be embarrassing if I did gamble because as a math teacher I know that the lottery and gambling are for people that are bad at math because probability. 

No, really though. When I was a brand new teacher and broke, okay I'm still broke, but back then I wrote to a few Casinos with my poor teacher sob story and begged for their used cards and dice. A few short weeks later I received a box filled to the brim with about fifty decks of cards and a nice sized box of dice. Sweet!

It's no skin off their nose because they only use a deck of cards one time. As you can see, they punched a little piece of out of the edge of the cards to indicate that they're used. They do that so people can't mark cards and cheat because probability again, you need to cheat to win.

This is another brilliant idea I got from Lenae. She numbers all of her decks of cards with a different number, and each of the cards within that deck with the same number. That way when the cards get mixed up, and you know they do because kids, they are easy to put back where they belong.

And one day I might ask my kids if they want to play 52-Card Pick-Up and I need a quick way for them to put the cards away.

Hey, it could happen.