In my last post I mentioned a game that Munchkin and I discovered while searching for a birthday gift for her little friend who just turned 5 recently. It’s more commonly known as a pub game, but Munchkin and I have been playing it for the challenges that exist in playing it.

To make the basic game set you need:

2 standard 6-sided dice

9 uniform pieces to use as Tiles

a cup for shaking and rolling the dice (very handy for little hands)

something to put all of this in

I taught my dad how to play this game, and even made him a set. My mom took it a step further and made a very simple one using 9 pieces of scrap card stock, a styrofoam egg carton that holds 1 dozen eggs, and two dice. I made mine out of wood chips that I purchased at my local Hobby Lobby that are in plastic bags, and come in different sizes. I bought squares as well as rectangles–either shape lends well to the playing of this game, but if you would like an elaborate set, the rectangles might well suit the purpose a little better.

Take your nine pieces (to be here on out known as Tiles) and number them, one through nine. some folks simply use a writing utensil to write simple numbers, others use stickers, decals, or stamps. Use what you have on-hand. I have used scrapbooking markers (Sharpies bleed too much on wood pieces, btw) as well as foam stamps and ink pads. I also made my own dice, but even the standard plastic dice will do (you can find multi-packs of them at your local Dollar Tree if you don’t want to take them from a game you currently have in your house). I purchased 1/2″ and 3/4″ wooden cubes that were blank, also from Hobby Lobby (the 1/2″ ones are simply little colored blocks, but you can use either the colored, or the natural wood–it’s up to you), and I used my scrapbooking marker (very ultra-fine tip) to put dots on the cubes. That’s all you need for a basic set. 🙂

To play the game, lay out your Tiles in a line in numerical order. Roll the dice. Looking at the total number on the dice, flip over the tile or tiles that total up the same number on the dice. That’s it. To clarify, let me give you some examples: Suppose you rolled a 5 and a 3. Total is 8, correct? You can flip over any Tiles that are still facing up which total up to 8, such as 8, 7+1, 6+2, and so on. Now, suppose you roll a 12. There is no tile that says ’12’ on it. That’s where you can flip over 9+3, 8+4, etc. Just so long as the sum of the Tiles you flip over is the same total as the dots on the dice. Get it yet?You keep rolling and flipping over Tiles until you roll a number for which you can’t sum up by flipping any more tiles (i.e., you roll a 7, and all you have left are a 2, 4, and 8). If you are playing alone, you start the game all over again. If you are playing with other people (to which, this number has no limit), your turn is over and the next player’s turn begins. All the tiles are flipped to facing back up and he or she begins (unless you’re playing the Long Game version, to which I haven’t grasped yet. I’ve only played this with an almost-4-year-old, and no adults, so I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet).

A winner is determined in 1 or 2 ways (at least, in this variation):

1. When your turn is over by being unable to flip any more tiles, the sum of the tiles still facing up is your score (again, 2, 4, and 8, which equal 14). The first person to score 45 is the loser, and play may continue with the remaining players.

2. During your turn, if you are able to successfully turn over every single tile (which is rare, but it does happen), you win. If you have your Tiles inside a box, this is your opportunity to slam the box shut, which is a very gratifying feeling as winner (trust me on this!!).

If you choose to use the egg carton method like my mom, you can even make tiles that number up to twelve. This is a more difficult game, and earning a 45 happens a lot sooner. Simply size your tiles to fit inside each compartment of the egg carton and number them on one side. To flip over a tile, you simply knock it forward so the number isn’t visible. when you roll the dice, you can toss them into the lid. This way, all the pieces won’t get lost.

To store the wood pieces, I also found unfinished wood boxes with hinged lids and latches on the front. I simply sanded all the pieces down if they’re rough, and, to make it easy, just tossed the pieces inside so that Munchkin could grab them and line them up. I’ll explain some of the math skills that this game reinforces a little later in this post. I numbered all the pieces using marker or stamps (my first set I painted with acrylic paints. Munchkin loves this set!), and tossed them into the box, which I also painted. The more elaborate set I drew all the numbers with the ultra-fine point marker, colored them in with watercolor markers, and also drew little filigree designs around each number. I then took a small hand drill (available for about $4 at Hobby Lobby, complete with 3 bits) and drilled a small hole just below the numbers. I also drilled a hole in each side of the box, then threaded a colored 20-gauge wire with beads and the tiles, and placed either end of the wire through the holes in the box and bent the ends into coils so the wire couldn’t unfasten itself. My next step will be to glue in some flannel into the box’s bottom, below the wire, as well as to the inside of the lid, to help deaden the noise from the dice being thrown.

These are some of the mathematics skills this games helps to reinforce:

*simple addition
*simple subtraction

*may aid in multiplication

*may aid in division

*numeral recognition

*one-to-one correspondence

*counting

*matching

*thinking in sets (i.e., 9=1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5, all as a set of numbers that total to 9)

*memorization (i.e., 5 dots and 3 dots visually equal to 8)

*problem-solving, including discovering multiple solutions to a single problem

Tip: If you have a preschooler learning to play this game who hasn’t quite figured out that 5 dots plus three dots equal eight dots but instead only counts the dots on each die, try using an abacus if you have one to show the dot totals. Simply move over 5 dots, then ask your child to move over three more, then count all the beads total. Then, to work on more advanced skills, ask your child to figure out what numbers to flip over to make 8.

I hope if you choose to try this game that you enjoy it as much as Munchkin and I do. We play it a couple times per day.

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