Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"I Like This Game Because You Have to Think Hard."

A Monday afternoon, working with one of my second graders, helping him fill in a blank hundreds grid.  Suddenly it hit me.  What if...

 ...using different colored pencils, players alternate capturing squares on a hundreds grid...

 ...while trying to get 4 squares in a row, column, or diagonal.
 It would work  just like tic-tac-toe.

 Each tic-tac-toe is worth a point, and you can keep track with tallies.  Play until the board is filled up.
Theresa and I played a practice round:

 Initially we tried 3 in a row, but things got very confusing and we decided that 4 in a row was better.  We also tried a game where a square could be used in multiple tic-tac-toes, but didn't like that either.  We also decided that the 0 and 100 would not count towards any player's tic-tac-toe.
And then it was time to take newly christened Number Grid Tic-Tac-Toe for a test drive.  (Apologies if someone holds the patent on this!)  Jane's class was first, and we decided to get crazy and use a grid that went from 1 to 120.  It took only about 5 minutes playing a demo game with a volunteer under the document camera and they were ready to rumble.

 "Hmmm.  Where should I go?"
 "I think I can figure this out in my head."

 Playing it safe.

 Using a number grid to help is so SMP 5.

 A barn-burner.  You can see here that 34 was used twice, as was 46.
Over the next several weeks I tried it out with 3 more second grade classes and 1 third grade class.  I asked each to write down their reflections and reactions on the back of their game boards.  Here's a sample:
• I liked this game because it was fun to figure out where the numbers go.
• I like this game because you need strategy.
• I loved it so much but hard.  So hard!!!
• I think the game helps because to put the right number in the right place you have to count by numbers and learn to do that in the game.
• I liked it because I outsmarted (my opponent) when he tried to outsmart me.
• I like this game because you have to think hard.
The kids came up with some awesome suggestions for modifying the game, including:
• If someone gets stuck, the other player gets a point.
• If you get three in a row you get half a point.
• Add a few numbers scattered around the board.  (Love it!  This child wants it differentiated!)
• If you get five in a row you get 2 points.
Jane's class experimented with a 3 player game:

 They found that 3 in a row was better with 3 players.
Maggie's class tried something a little more difficult:

 "What goes here?"

Many possibilities...

 If it's green's turn, where should he go?  Why?  Defend your answer.

I'm happy to report that the game is wildly popular; for some reason it hits that elusive kid sweet spot.  I suspect it's because the cognitive demand is just right. (I like this game because you have to think hard.  Unspoken: But not too hard?)  And because the kids already know how to play tic-tac-toe, they can expend their mental energy on strategy and on figuring out which number goes in what square without worrying about a bunch of rules.   The teachers love it too because it's easy to explain and takes almost no effort to prepare.
So grab a blank grid and some colored pencils and have some fun!

1. I've never seen any hundred board look anything like this. It's so full of energy.wild and messy and the blank squares look like they are begging for takers. Bravo!!!

1. I never thought of the hundreds board as being wild and full of energy! Thanks Paula for that wonderful image.

2. Great game, and action research on it. Thanks!

1. Thanks John! We'll have a round next time we meet!

3. Thanks for sharing these ideas. So many possibilities :-)

1. Thanks! If you try it out let me know how it goes.

4. This reminds me of the Product Game, in that the 4-in-a-row constraint forces students to think strategically and mathematically at the same time. Awesome game!

1. Thanks Kent, I hadn't thought of that connection. And a good reminder that I have to get our 4th graders playing the Product Game!

2. Another related variation is fill-in-the-blanks connect 4 with a blank multiplication table. It would be a good game to cap off the cubes and graph paper explorations that John describes at the top of this post:
Multiple Representations

3. I love the idea of doing it on the blank multiplication table. And I suppose you could do it on an addition table as well. Thanks or pointing me to John's post. Perfect timing. Our third graders currently are working on derived facts, and the activities he describes are perfect.

5. Have several grade level work sessions this week...and have not liked any of the opening tasks I had. Think what has been missing is the conversation this provokes. Thank you for sharing your game.

6. You're welcome Judy! I'm glad you've enjoyed the game.

7. +1 for you my friend! Ms. Fletcher says thanks a bunch as well.

8. Just shared this with my 60 elementary teachers. Adding the challenge and the fun to the 100s chart has been part of the discussion for a while now. Thanks for sharing!

1. Thanks Denis. I'm glad that you found the game a useful and enjoyable way to build familiarity and fluency with the 100s chart.

9. Played it with my kids today. Started at 0.1, moved by increments of 0.1. Tomorrow starting at 27.4 and moving by 0.1 increments. We are going to try using increments of 1/3 later in the week.

Thanks for a great game that can be differentiated in so many ways!

1. Our fourth graders could really benefit from this variation. Thanks for sharing! I'm curious to see what will happen when you try 1/3s.

10. Absolutely brilliant. I tried this today with my 2nd graders. A few of their comments: "I think this game is a breath taking game!" "I think this game stretched my brain because I picked challenging numbers," and "I like it so much I will give it 100,000 stars." I can't thank you enough for sharing this. One question the students had was, "What happens if you put a number in the wrong place?" I didn't really know how to answer, so I just said, "Fix it!"

1. Thanks! I love hearing the comments. What happens if you put a number in the wrong place? Great question. I've seen this happen, and when I do I don't say anything. Ultimately, after more numbers are placed, the kids will realize that they've made a mistake and then will have to figure out how to fix it. This will require some erasing, which is why I encouraged them to use colored pencil instead of marker. An interesting question to ask might be, "How will you know if a number is in the wrong place?"

11. Hi Joe-
Am going to try the 100 grid tic tac toe with 2nd graders at my school.
Have you ever tried using a 100 grid that is oriented in the complete opposite way. This way, when you say to a student go up by 10, you literally are going up on the chart, both numerically and geographically. It seems like a much more logical way to orient the chart.

12. I think it's a great idea. I've seen hundreds grids oriented that way, but have very limited experience using them. Try it out and let me know what happens!

13. I'm just now getting around to this and love it. Think about how such a simple and effective idea gets shared and leveraged in such a wonderful way. I'll try it out with my own second grade son and see how it goes. Thanks for the idea!

1. Thanks Robert. This game got introduced to the second graders in January and it's still going strong. Have fun with your son, and if you two come up with any variations, let me know!

2. Where's a good place to get a number grid like the one Maggie's class used?

3. You have to print out a blank hundreds grid and fill in the numbers yourself. It wouldn't even have to be the first and
last. Could be any square(s) as long as the underlying structure of the grid is kept intact.

14. Love it! Can't wait to see what I do with it and high school students. Love John and Paula's comments and ditto them! Nice work!

1. Thanks! I'd love to know how you adapt this for HS.

15. Joe, I introduced this game to our 2nd graders last year, and I'm looking forward to playing this game again with a new batch of kids tomorrow. Great idea and great game, particularly how it can be differentiated. Here's a Google doc with instructions and differentiated boards for Number Grid Tic-Tac-Toe that I created to share with our teachers at our school. I also added dashed lines on the grid to help anchor 5s and 50s.