Tag: math

Card Game: Sum War

Anya and I came up with a new card game — sum war. It’s a bit like war, but you throw two cards. The person with the higher sum wins all of the cards & puts them on the bottom of their stack. Keep going until someone has all of the cards. There’s obviously lots of addition involved, but the game uses estimation too (I have a 5 and a 7, you have a 5 and a 9 … you win without actually adding anything).

Equations: The Card Game

We came up with a new card game today — something to practice adding and subtracting (and mathematical thinking). Deal x cards (we’ve had five and seven to start). The remaining cards are the ‘draw’ pile. Flip one card over. Try to come up with an equation using the cards in your hand that combine with the flipped card to make an equation. Aces are 1, jacks are 11, queens are 12, and kings are 13.

There’s a King up — you’ve got 2, 5, 8, 9, and Q. 12(Q) + 9 – 8 = 13(K). You select one of the cards in your equation to place on the top of the face-up pile. The next person then tries to create an equation using the card you laid down.

Zero is a little special — there’s a some card up, x. If you have two cards of the same value, y. X plus Y minus Y equals X … and you can discard one of the cards you used in your equation.

If you cannot form an equation, you draw a card. The game ends when the face-down pile is exhausted. Add the values of the cards in your hand, and the person with the lowest value hand wins. This means you probably want to discard the highest value card in your equation (unless there’s a strategy to having the card — if I have an equation with 5 and 10, but have another 10 in my hand … I might want to hold on to the ten because the two tens are a 0 and are a guaranteed play).

Sometimes, math *is* hard

A recent meeting included a call back to “math is hard barbie” — back in 1992, Mattel produced a ‘talking’ Barbie that (among other phrases) said “math class is tough”. They ended up recalling the doll – a process which I assume cost the company quite a bit of money. And bad press. As a sophomore in high school, I didn’t understand the controversy. I was concurrently taking both Algebra 2 and Geometry (allowing me to complete two years of Calculus at graduation), so I had some experience with math classes.

The thing that struck me — the actual phrase is not untrue. Sometimes math class was hard. As someone with hand-eye coordination issues, art class was hard too. As someone who is tone deaf, music class was really hard. People who take offense at someone declaring something to be ‘hard’ have themselves declared difficult things as somehow negative. Not worth doing. I understand that the offense was people familiar with existing stereotypes extrapolating the statement to mean “girls think math is hard and girls avoid difficult academic subjects” or “females think math is hard because their brains don’t work that way and males have an innate advantage”.

I worry that we’re selling people false hope by refusing to tell them that something is hard. At some point, you’re going to encounter reality. I studied theoretical physics – gravitation, specifically gravitational phenomenon brought about during binary black hole collisions. Had someone told me it was going to be a super easy way to earn money – head into a computer lab for a few hours a day, drink some coffee, do a little typing, and head home … wow, what a shock my first day would have been. Why don’t we work on teaching people that a lot of things are hard. And each person makes their own effort:reward analysis. Raising chickens is a lot harder than picking a carton up at the grocery store; but if you like fresh eggs, or if you like to ensure the welfare of the animals providing your eggs, if you want to avoid using fossil fuels to transport your food, or if you just want to be involved in the process of generating your food … you decide to get some chickens. If you want to understand the mechanisms of the universe, you learn the math and physics. You do the research.