Capture the Caterpillar combines place value, comparing numbers, addition and subtraction, number sense, and strategy as you attempt to get as close to a target number as possible. All you need are:
- A deck of cards (10s and face cards removed, though Queens can be 0s)
- A pair of dice
- A game sheet and a score sheet
- Counters or anything that can stand in as counters, such as beans, paper clips, etc.
Here's how it works:
- Pick two cards and generate a target number. In the example above either 28 or 82; I chose 28.
- Roll two dice. Find the sum. Take that many counters. I rolled a 3 and a 2 and that makes 5, so I took 5 counters.
- Place the counters in the caterpillar and try to get as close to 28 as possible. You can place them anywhere you want, but you need to use them all.
|Here I made 14. 1 ten and 4 ones. That's 14 away from 28.|
|23. 2 tens and 3 ones. That's 5 away. Closer... but can we do better?|
|32. 3 tens and 2 ones. How far away from 28? Is this the closest we can get? How do you know?|
Here are two second graders playing this game. Their target number is 22 and they have 9 counters. Pay attention to how they collaborate; how they count, how they determine the differences between their numbers, how they talk through the rules, how they plot strategy:
Here's a completed scoresheet:
Two more versions:
- The Georgia Frameworks include only the 100s and 1000s caterpillars. Honestly, it's been so long I'm not sure where the 10s caterpillar came from. I can't find it on either the new (2019) or older (2014) edition of the Frameworks. Did I do a cut and paste job and make it myself? Here's the image in a google doc. Or you can make your own. Better yet, have your kids make it! (Actually you don't even need the caterpillars. Just circles will do.)
- The scoresheet in the Frameworks has a column for expanded form. We eliminated that column and replaced it with a column to indicate the difference between the two numbers. Here it is. We were about to experiment with having the kids plot their target numbers along with their attempts on a number line, but never got the chance.
- An alternative to competing against another individual or team is competing against your (or the class's) best score. I like that better anyway.
- For a change, try to make the number that's farthest away from the target number and try for the highest score possible.
- Try it with 3 dice.
- Forget drawing cards and trying to get close to a target. Instead roll the dice, grab counters, and see how many different numbers you can make. Is there a systematic way to go about the task? Is there a relationship between the number of counters and the number of different numbers you can make?
- One possible assignment: take a picture of a set up and ask students to come up with the closest/farthest number possible. This is a good number sense routine.
My hope is that this activity can be used by parents working with their children at home and teachers working virtually with their students. I can only imagine what it must be like for all those trying their best to continue to provide meaningful educational experiences for their kids right now. Know that, when all is said and done, you will be counted among the many heroes who held our society together during this most difficult and challenging time.