Contig Game: Master Your Math Facts

[Photo by Photo Mojo.]

Yahtzee and other board games provide a modicum of math fact practice. But for intensive, thought-provoking math drill, I can’t think of any game that would beat Contig.

Math concepts: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, order of operations, mental math
Number of players: 2 – 4
Equipment: Contig game board, three 6-sided dice, pencil and scratch paper for keeping score, and bingo chips or wide-tip markers to mark game squares

Set Up

Place the game board and dice between players, and give each player a marker or pile of chips. (Markers do not need to be different colors.) Write the players’ names at the top of the scratch paper to make a score sheet.

How to Play

  • Each player rolls a die. Whoever rolls the smallest number will go first, and the play proceeds to the left (clockwise) around the table.
  • On your turn, roll all three dice. If any die falls off the table or lands at a slant, all three dice must be rolled again. Do not touch the dice after they are rolled, though you may use a pencil to scoot them next to each other.
  • Use the three numbers and the basic arithmetic operations (+ , - , \times , or \div ) to form a two-step equation that equals any available square on the game board. You may not use an answer that has already been marked. Try as many options as you can think of, to make sure you find the highest scoring combination.
  • Mark your answer on the game board with a bingo chip or a large X. At the same time, say out loud how you calculated the number. Add to your score one point for the square you marked PLUS one point for each already-marked square that is touching any side or corner of your number’s square. (Maximum score = 9.)
  • Another player may challenge your answer before the next player rolls the dice. If the challenge is upheld — that is, if you made a mistake — the challenger takes the points you would have won, and you score zero. If your calculation is correct, you get one bonus point for having withstood the challenge.
  • If all the numbers you can calculate have already been marked, your score is zero for that turn. But if another player can think of a valid combination, he can challenge you, mark the square, and take those points.


  • Play until each player has had 10 turns.
  • Whoever has the highest total score wins the game.


Scoring option: The most common variation I found online was NOT to score a point for the marked square. Just score one point for each contiguous square that was previously marked. (Maximum score = 8.) I strongly prefer the scoring system above, which awards at least one point for any valid calculation.

Tic-Tac-Toe: Players mark numbers with X and O, and the first player to get 3 squares in a row wins. Rows may be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. For a longer game, try 4 or 5 in a row.

Multi-player extended play: Any player who gets a zero three turns in a row drops out of the game. When the last player gets his third strike, the game is over. There is no bonus for the last player, other than his extra turn(s). Add up the scores as usual to find the winner.

Tournament play: Two players per game board. Set a timer, giving each player only 30 seconds for each turn. Think fast! If you do not mark a square within the 30 seconds, your score is zero for that turn. (Scores of zero may not be challenged.) After 10 turns, add up the players’ scores for that round. Then trade partners, get a new game board, and play another round. After three rounds, award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbons to the top scorers in each age group/grade level.


Mathwire featured Contig in its November newsletter, which reminded me that I had intended to post the rules on my blog. The game is an excellent way for students to practice their math facts and build their mental math skills. Every spring, our local homeschool group holds a series of Contig practices. Then we host a “school” tournament, and the winners proceed to a regional tournament at the local community college.

Here are a few links for Contig variations on the Internet:

multfrac-300This post is an excerpt from my book Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available now at your favorite online book dealer.

24 thoughts on “Contig Game: Master Your Math Facts

  1. Math Club variation: Ask your students why the game board looks the way it does. Why is 216 the biggest number? Why does the board have a square for 100, and for 150, but not for 200? Etc.

    Ultimate number challenge: Find all the ways to make each number with Contig dice. Whew!

  2. Hai,
    Your blog is fantastic. You’ve done a fantastic job composing and making it super rich with content. After seeing yours, Tatyanan & Chanhee’s blogs, I’m wishing I stumbled across WordPress instead of Blogger. Thanks also for cluing me into Contig. My 5 year old & I recently took up cards and Rummy Tile to help us with math. It is helping and we’ll give Contig a try too. Thanks again and your blog is top notch!

  3. It is very fun, but on the other hand very brain working game. I played similar games with my daughter before, which was her school assignment. I will try this game in this holidays with my family!!

  4. My daughter’s hard work has paid off. This was her first year playing, but she managed to take second place (for her grade level) in the homeschool Contig competition and is headed to the Regionals. Congratulations, Kitten!

  5. My name is Jack Williams a retired mathematics teacher. In 1969-71 I was director of the Central Iowa Low Achievers Mathematics Project. David O’Neil, Les Lewis, Frank Broadbent, and myself invented CONTIG. I am wondering where you happened to find this great game.

  6. Our school district (central Illinois) has been running a yearly Contig competition for ages. I don’t know when they started. It’s a fantastic game! I went to the Regional competition this spring with my daughter, and it was wonderful to see a whole gymnasium full of school kids there just to play with math.

  7. I try not to give out too much personal info online (practicing what I preach to my kids), but I will say that we’re not in your neighborhood. We’re closer to Springfield than we are to Chicago.

  8. I played Contig when I was in elementary school back in the late 70s! I am know a math teacher–I use it with my students. I fundamentally believe Contig changed my ability to love and enjoy math which translated into my math teaching career!

  9. At one can find a freeware Contig game for windows — For many years, I had another site using yahoo Geocities. Unfortunately, Yahoo discontinued the free webpage service so I moved it to Google sites.

    — The game is 100% free with nothing disabled. Any computerization of this game should be free as it helps kids learn math. Anybody who writes and sells a Contig game for money should be frowned and put in the corner with a DUNCE HAT unless they give 100% of the money to educational needs.

    I was exposed to Contig when volunteering in a class room. I wrote a computer program to figure out the odds of making the various numbers on the board. I realized it could easily be turned into a computer game to help kids. So I DID and then I gave it away FREE.

  10. Played this today in our 3rd and 4th grade math games class. It went well and was a solid hit. Two interesting points from playing this immediately after the factor captor game:
    (1) the kids initially felt relief when seeing the dice. They guessed that dice would take a lot of strategic thinking out of their hands, but this game still allows quite a lot of flexibility for them to figure out how to move.
    (2) there was a little confusion about scoring, based on hold-over from factor captor. Some kids thought that the value of the square they were claiming was part of the score, while others got the point about neighboring squares right away.

    I could imagine a hybrid game where both forms of scoring contribute. In fact, I noticed some pairs were focused on low numbers in their play, so this hybrid scoring might shift them to more to using multiplication in their combinations.

    1. A hybrid scoring plan could be interesting: value of the square claimed + number of contiguous squares marked. I’m not sure it would lead to as much thinking about alternative choices, since one would almost always want to go for the biggest number.

      Another option I’ve used is to change the game board to make the small numbers less useful. You can find this spiral Contig board in my Multiplication & Fraction Printables file.
      Spiral Contig Game Board

  11. I used to be in Contig Club in 5th grade also in Central Illinois. Back around 1998-1999. I Currently live in the St. Louis area. Non of the schools do that here. So now I’m on a mission to find contig boards for my 11 and 9 year old daughters. Such fun memories!

    1. It’s a great game, isn’t it? I’m not sure the schools in our area are still playing, either. (Well, almost certainly not in this pandemic year.)

      I hope your daughters enjoy the printable gameboards above. Or you can find more in my free Multiplication and Fraction Game Printables file:

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