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One Of The Best Number Sense Games Of All Time: Contig


     Every teacher on the planet should learn the math game Contig!  Read the details here and consider adding it to your collection of go-to math activities. 

Why Contig?

I recommend this game for any class:
  • it's awesome at building number sense
  • it's easy to prep and play 
  • each game is fresh and new 
  • you and your students can adapt it to your own needs as you go 
  • it works beautifully in centers, small groups, or as whole-group fun 

The Gameboard

     You can download a free copy of the game board here. There is also a Contig, Jr. for younger students. Here's the game board for grade 4 and up:


The Materials

Materials are simple. For each pair of students, you need:

  • a laminated Contig game board
  • 3 dice
  • a different colored dry erase marker for each player

How To Play  

1)  Roll three dice. Use the numbers just as they are. For example, if you roll 2, 4, 6, they cannot be 24 or 62... just 2, 4, 6. 

2)  Add the three numbers. That sum is your starting number. Cross it off the board. This is the only time that you are required to do anything specific with the numbers you roll.


3)  Look at all of the numbers surrounding the number you marked off. These are your target numbers. If your starting number is 12, your target numbers are 3, 4, 5, 11,13, 19, 20, 21. You do not have to mark them, as I have in blue below. This is just to show you what is allowed.
4)  On each turn, roll three dice. The player can perform any operations in any order on those three numbers as long as the result is one of your target numbers. If you rolled 3, 5, 6, you could say: 3 x 6 - 5 = 11. Cross off 11. 
5)  Notice that your new target numbers are 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21.
6)  Continue rolling 3 dice on each turn. Perform operations to produce one of the target numbers. Notice that your target possibilities increase with each new number. Continue to play for a specified time or number of turns, whatever works for you.

     Once students are confident about playing the game, they typically start asking to change the rules. That's great! This type of mathematical discussion is powerful. I always ask students to predict how their suggested change will affect the game. Common changes that kids suggest are:
  • Use 4 or more dice.
  • Treat your starting roll like any roll; instead of just adding, perform any operations.
  • Use only multiplication and division.
  • Use one of your dice as an exponent.

One Last Connection

     If students ask about the name, Contig, I love to make this ELA connection. I tell them it comes from the word contiguous, then ask if that sounds like a word they've heard before. They typically respond, "Continuous". I agree and say contiguous means continuous and touching. That refers to the target numbers that need to be touching, or contiguous to, the numbers you choose.
  
    I hope you'll give Contig a try. I love it so much that I created a version to send home with my students. It's a great homework activity. You can find it in my store here.

     Best wishes and I'd love to hear how Contig works for your students!

Growing Grade By Grade
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