Two Games of No Chance

I’d like to publicize two simple math games for kids that should be more widely known.  Both games are hands-on and immediately engaging. Both lead to a number of important mathematical concepts.  Both involve a start state, a goal state, and rules for how you can alter a state. And, as you’ll see, there’s no chance in either game.

For each, I’ll first describe a “warm-up” version which kids should begin with.

Game 1

Materials: sticks of different lengths

Start state: 5 sticks in a row arranged from shortest to longest

Goal state: rearranged so the sticks go from longest to shortest

Rules: For each move, you are allowed to pick any 3 adjacent sticks and rotate their positions among themselves.  Each stick must move to the position of one of the other two sticks you’ve chosen; none of the 3 sticks you’ve chosen may stay put.   You may use as many moves as you wish.

Example move:

sample move for stick ordering game

After the warm-up, start with 10 sticks arranged from shortest to longest.

Game 2

Materials: pencil and paper

Start state: the numbers 1 through 5 in a row

Goal state: five 3s in a row

Rules: For each move, you are allowed to pick any two numbers and change them by adding 1 to one of them and subtracting 1 from the other.  You may use as many moves as you wish.

Example move:

Sample moveAfter the warm-up, change the start state to the numbers 1 through 10 written in a row and change the goal state to ten 5s in a row.

Have Fun and Good luck!

Note: The “no chance” here is not exactly the same as the “no chance” in the really fun book Games of No Chance, edited by Richard Nowakowski.

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We're a math club for girls.
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