Sunday, January 24, 2010

My son's board game :^)

My son, we'll call him R, goes to Wildcat Community FreeSchool, where the kids get to play most of the day, and learn lots of good stuff that way. Wildcat has lots of voluntary, free form classes, like art, Spanish, music, and other impromptu things, and there are also semi-mandatory classes in language arts and math. (If the parent says they're taking care of these subjects at home, the child doesn't have to go.)

R has been uncomfortable in crowds for the past year or two, and has hated 'having to' go to class. So he didn't. We do plenty of reading at home, and I'm all about math. But the classes are pretty fun, and he finally started going last week. (I don't know that it will last.) I'm thrilled. I trust that he'll learn just fine without it, but he's very social, and I think he'll be happier going to class.

On Thursday, the teacher (go Sarah!) had the kids rolling dice and marking their results on a chart with maybe 8 boxes above each of the numbers 1 to 6. Doesn't sound particularly exciting, does it? But that's because you're not 7 years old. The kids were watching the numbers race to the top. They were fascinated.

Yesterday evening R was messing around with the dice, and suddenly said, "I can do the game Sarah showed us!" And he made his own chart and raced the numbers. (Meanwhile I'm sitting near him, reading all the blogs I follow.) When he got tired ot that, he made his own board game:

We played it together today, and I loved it! Yes, it's utterly simple. But it was amusing what happened sometimes. The image doesn't show up very well, so I'm going to bore some of you with the details: Space 0 says 'Start', 1 is back 1 (indicated by arrow), 2 is back 2, 3 is forward 3, 4 is lose a turn (frowny face), 5 is back 2, 6 and 7 have no special actions, 8 is back 6, 9 to 12 - no actions, 13 is back 7, and spot 14 (not visible) is the goal. Landing on spot 8 takes you back 6, and then back 2 more to the start. Landing on spot 5 takes you back 2 then forward 3 to spot 6. It was a topsy turvy game.

This is what I want for my son - enough exposure to math that he has a glimpse of its power, and enough freedom to play with math however he wants. Yeay!


  1. "...enough freedom to play with math however he wants..."

    exactly. the point of this exercise
    will have been not only to play a
    new game and have fun doing it
    but to discover that the *most*
    fun... for certain kinds of games...
    comes in *changing the rules*
    in order to create *new* versions.

    (at first; then new games;
    new philosophies; new ways
    of being-in-the-world...)

    "make up rules that'll be fun
    based on other fun games"
    is pretty much the whole ball
    game for math-heads. this
    is kept secret somehow but
    i've never understood just how.

    i learned a variant of r's game where
    you sketch a "racetrack" looking
    much like r's sketch onto
    *graph paper* (small grained
    is best) and then begin at one
    end with a dot for your car
    and "move" at most *one more*
    or *one less* in each of the
    orthogonal directions
    (north-south or east-west, say)
    at each move compared to
    the previous move. and
    try not to crash into the
    "walls" at the edges of the
    "track". it was great.
    hours of fun. & rates of change
    without a "limit" in sight.
    r's probably not ready for it yet.
    i made up some forward-and-back
    games like his too along the way.
    but playtesters are hard to find
    so i haven't done much game
    design. thanks to this post
    i have just discovered to my
    joy that the great
    robert abbot has
    a webpage. see ya! ot

  2. Thanks, Owen! I wonder if I can find a copy of his Abbott's book (out of print).


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