Race to 100 is a common game played in Grade One classrooms.
There are variations, of course. In one, players take turns rolling a die. The number that comes up on the die is the number of squares they get to colour in on a paper 100 chart. Each player colours the next squares in sequence from the ones that have already been coloured. The person who colours in the number 100 wins the game.
In another, the kids play on a game board with spaces from 1 to 100, moving game pieces through the sequence of numbers until one of them reaches 100.
This morning, though, I had an idea. I thought we could play Race to 100 using the Numicon pieces and the Numicon 100 board.
I divided my kids into groups of 4, and gave each group one set of shapes, one 100 board and two dice. Within each group, the kids took turns rolling the dice. The number that came up was the number the player got to put on the board. If, for example, he or she rolled a 6 and a 3, he or she would put shapes on the board to fill up 9 spaces; but not necessarily using the 3 piece and the 6 piece. The player could choose a 9 piece, or a 6 and a 3, or a 5 and a 4, or four 2’s and a 1, or even nine 1’s. And they could put them in any empty spaces on the board.
Play continues until the entire board is filled. Groups can compete against each other, or not — simply working together to get to 100 could be the whole objective.
This version of the game has kids subitizing the numbers to 6 as they are presented on the dice, and practicing adding sums to 12. But then they also have choices about how to break that number down into parts to build it on the game board; reinforcing part-to-whole relationships and allowing them opportunities to think through the addition process in various ways including finding the missing addend (which is essentially subtraction). They see, recognize, build and represent numbers repeatedly in a variety of ways.
But wait — there’s more. The kids have to make choices about where to play the shapes on the board, developing strategies, flexibility and resourcefulness. At the beginning of the game they might choose larger pieces; nearer the end they might have to figure out how to use numerous smaller pieces to fill in the gaps. They may have to turn pieces around or turn them over to make them fit, essentially doing an open-ended, fluid, and evolving jig-saw puzzle. Along the way, they are talking to the other players in their group, articulating their understandings of number concepts, and problem solving together with them.
The open-endedness of the play and the number and kinds of choices the kids have to make, take this version of Race to 100 into higher-level thinking skills and visual-spatial understandings. A straight-forward, roll-the-dice-and-move game becomes a bit more of a cognitive obstacle course.
And once they get to 100, they can race back to 0 by removing the number of pieces they roll on the dice each turn until they have cleared the board; demonstrating subtraction as the inversion of addition. (Thanks to my very clever colleague Cassie Bensch for that last idea!)