Counting Corn

I love playing games with my kids. It’s always good to just sit down for an hour or so and play something, and as an educator, I know it’s much better for their brains than watching So you think you can dance?

We played a few games tonight, namely 6 Nimmt!, Sleeping Queens, and Pick Picknic. All three of these games are great examples of fun games you can play with your kids that could improve what educators refer to as number sense. For example, while 6 Nimmt! may not be the most strategic game available, the game does require that players identify and rank numbers. I might ask, “Which is the lowest number here?” or “This number is greater than both of these numbers, but which number is it closer to?”

I think it’s a pretty good game that has a six-year-old boy sitting for fifteen minutes, having fun, putting numbers in order from least to greatest. Try and do that with a traditional classroom activity.

In Sleeping Queens, the primary mechanic that allows a player to get better cards into their hands involves the creation of number sentences. A player has five cards in their hand at all times. Many of the cards are useful in gathering the sleeping queens, but many of the cards are just valued from one to ten, and don’t really do anything for you. You can discard one of them on your turn and draw a new card, or you can discard a pair of them and draw two new cards, or you can create a number sentence with three cards and then get three new cards. For example, if you have a two, a five, and a seven, you can say, “Two plus five equals seven” and discard those three cards for three new cards. Hopefully one of the three new cards will help you wake some of those queens.

Make sure that you make it a rule for players to actually say the number sentence out loud. It’s that kind of physical and auditory participation that helps children create mathematical fluency, which is exactly what your kid’s teacher is trying to develop by giving them those stressful timed tests in school.

The last game before bedtime was Pick Picknic. I didn’t really consider this much of an opportunity for math enrichment, I just like the game. It’s got some fun bluffing elements to it, and the kids like to put the colored wooden cubes that represent the corn onto the cute square tiles. Everyone chooses a card and reveals them at the same time. Then there is a process to determine who gets what corn, and that was the big surprise for me tonight. The corn comes in three different colors. Yellow corn is worth three points and blue and green corn is worth two and one, respectively. My six-year-old was counting up his score with these cubes and I realized what an advanced mathematical concept he was grasping. He was using the assigned value rather than just counting with what is called a one-to-one correspondence. How awesome is that?

Happy gaming!