## Saturday, August 16, 2014

### 21 with uno cards

Who: J1 and J2
When: after bath and before bedtime
Where: bedroom
What material did we use: pack of UNO cards

I'm working through the games and activities listed on this page of ideas for J1's school. Tonight, three of us played a version of 21 with the UNO cards.  I considered removing the non-numerical cards, but instead made up the following rules:

• everyone is dealt 7 cards at the start, you draw a card every time you play one, so should stay with a 7 card hand
• numerical cards played are all added, up to 21, with the last player able to play collecting the stack
• reverse and skip cards can be played at any time (perhaps I should have restricted it to play on a card of the same color?)
• wild automatically take the stack to 21 if the player can say what value is required
• draw 2 and draw 4 lead the next player to draw extra cards (so it helps an opponent)
Overall, I think the game was fairly enjoyable.  The most interesting point was asking J2 the value of a wild card he had played onto a stack with value 5 and he replied "5+5+5+1." He did this again several times, showing a couple of things about his thinking: first, he wasn't really subtracting, he was filling in a gap, he is comfortable with some number bonds (often his first step is to get to 20 or 10, and he likes adding by 5s if there is room.

Extension discussions
For several reasons, we just played the game and didn't talk a lot about the structure.  Here are two areas of discussion we could have pursued:

1. Are there strategic plays? Given the numbers available are 0 through 9, how many turns are required before we get to 21? Generally, if you have a choice of two cards, should you play the smaller or larger one?
2. Hey, this is a game I just made up.  What do you think about the rules? What is fun, what's not? What else could we try?

Conclusions about the game
J1 was generally pretty fast with all of the little calculations required, so it felt like playing a game rather than drilling arithmetic. Based on this test run, I'd say it is a decent game for J1's class, or a similar group of students.

I really liked the rule about wild cards and will use that again when we play next. However, J1 didn't like the treatment of draw 2 and draw 4; he suggested that the player should get to draw the extra cards for them self.

Skip and reverse also seem like duds. As noted above, I may restrict their use to when they can be played on a like color. Another idea is to assign them a numerical value (10 and -5 both appeal to me). Another possibility is that they reset the pile value to 0.

Just play UNO?

On the other hand, playing with the UNO cards made them feel like we should just be playing UNO.  We ended up playing two rounds of 21 and then one game of UNO.  It has become accepted that J2 will always win UNO when we play as a family. Of course, this isn't likely to be true over time, but tonight was no exception. In fact, his last card was a lucky play: after a string of reds, J1 played a red 5 allowing J2 to drop his last card, a yellow 5!