Monday, October 19, 2015

Damult dice extension

Apologies that it has taken me so long to post. We are on break between terms right now, which actually means I have less time than usual!

We played an extension of damult dice with the third grade class during the last week of classes that was very successful. Here is the quick story:

First, we played a round of the standard game, with a point target of 200. Every student had a chance to roll 3 dice, add two of them, then multiply the result by the third. At one point, on my turn, I had 124 points and the kids had 199 points. We stopped and I asked what they thought would happen. They quickly saw that I had no chance to win.

Next, we drew a card from a playing deck. In this case, it was a 5. Based on that draw, we then played damult dice again, but players are only allowed to count points that are multiples of 5. To soften this additional constraint, we added a fourth dice. In other words, players throw four dice, choose two values to add together, and choose a third value to multiply by that sum. If the result is a multiple of 5, they can add those points to their running total.

For the next game, we chose a different card to determine the multiplication family for that round.

Multiplication families practice

At the basic level, this variation made the game a really good way for the kids to practice their multiplication families. To focus the practice, I had actually doctored the playing cards ahead of time and took out many of the cards (face cards, 10, aces, and 2s).  For other student groups, I might take out the fives or the threes, if they were already very comfortable with those families, or I might include the twos and tens if they needed more work there.

Their observations were great

During play, the students quickly launched into observations and hypotheses about how to make use of their new degree of freedom (the extra dice) to overcome the constraint. For example, they realized that the only multiples of 5 possible are where one of the factors is already a multiple of 5. That means (a+b) * 5, a+b = 5, or a+b = 5. They had different observations when looking for multiples of 6 and again for multiples of 8.

These conversations became a natural step into thinking about the factors of our constraint and, even better, the prime factorization.

Another possible twist

For the class, we chose one multiplication family for each complete play of the game.  In subsequent play at home, we've tested two other versions. In one version, the player starts her turn by drawing a card, then needs to score points that are a multiple of that card's value. This adds a further element of randomness to the game as each player potentially faces different constraints on their turn.

Alternatively, we drew one card to constrain the next two turns. In other words, each player faces the same constraint as the other, but the multiplication family can change between a complete set of turns. 

My recommendation is to be flexible and try the version that suits your players the best. I think the first version is my favorite for encouraging the players to really think about what is required to make a point value that is a multiple of their specific constraint, to make observations and hypotheses.

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