|The rules are not as complicated as they look.|
|Here's a close-up of the board. Jeff and I decided to use Grid 1 (Beginning Level).|
"What do you think the next move will be?" I asked. There were lots of opinions as to what the best next move was, and I made sure that each one was backed up by some type of explanation. The idea that there was some strategy involved, which some kids had already begun to intuit, was brought out into open discussion. And after everyone who wanted to had a chance to express their opinion, I just hit "play" and we saw what actually happened. The kids loved it! So we continued in this way for several turns, and came back to it the next day with more video.
This is when I began to think that maybe we should push this game a bit more. At the very least the kids were getting practice with some multiplication facts (3 x 9 = 27 was pretty much automatic by that point), they were also adding (as they kept score), and of course continuing to build some understanding about factors and multiples. Besides, they were still having fun with it.
A look at a random notebook page where two kids had kept score of a game they played gave me another idea:
|How easy would it be to recreate a game based on a copy of the score sheet?|
This got frustrating for some as there were often several false starts, and kids were confused as to what the numbers actually meant. But the majority were able to piece together at least the beginning moves of the game.
Of course next came the reverse: Given a picture of a board from a game that is already in progress...
...can you recreate the score sheet?
By this time the unit was nearing its conclusion, the assessment was just days away, we still hadn't introduced the terms prime and composite, and Jeff was starting to panic. So we decided to have another class discussion about Factor Captor strategies. It was centered around numbers that were "good to pick". By this time the kids knew that 11 and 13 were good because they had no other factors except 1 and themselves. In fact, in most games, 11 and 13 were the first numbers selected. This is how we organized the concept of a prime number. Other numbers might be more or less "good to pick", but they had other factors besides 1 and themselves. So that's how we organized the concept of a composite number. Jeff was relieved. And the unit drew to a close.
At this point we would have put the game away. The next unit dealt with fractions, and so did the one after that. No need for factors and multiples, prime and composite numbers anymore. But Jeff and I decided we wanted to continue to explore the game with the kids, and that these explorations could take place in and around other lessons and activities.
Circling back to our conceptions of primes and composites in relation to the game, and the strategy involved in playing, I thought it would be interesting to see if the kids could classify the numbers on the board as "really good", "kind of good", or "not so good", and give a reason to back it up. The fact that they would have to cut up a board appealed to my sense that if you want to understand something, it's a good idea to take it apart.
|Jeff and I liked this explanation.|
These kids understood that the classification would have something to do with the point differential.
|Here's what we were driving at: what's the point differential? These kids nailed it for 27.|
After spending several days working on this project, we decided to let them play the game again, this time using their charts. We asked them to keep in mind whether or not their charts were helpful, and whether some numbers might be classified incorrectly.
My supervisor came to observe me in December. I wanted to use the observation as a chance to showcase some of the different projects and activities we had been exploring in grade 4. We started with a homemade estimation 180 activity, and then divided the class in half. Some were working on the highway sign project, and others playing factor captor and working on their strategy posters. He liked the game, and noticed how engaged and excited the kids were.
"The world would be a great place if we could play factor captor all day long!" he said wistfully.
It's now June. And Jeff and I have made it a point to integrate the game into our guided group routine at least twice a month. This has provided another opportunity for us to reteach, conduct formative assessments, and have the kids revisit the skills and concepts.
|As they have played, their strategy posters have been amended, edited, and revised.|
|Some have needed more paper!|
Jeff and I agree that the strategic use of games like Factor Captor, and the Pie Eating Contest, must be an integral part of our program going forward. These games have the potential to be repurposed, taken apart, and mined for their rich content. They have too much going for them to be played just once or twice and then put away.