[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
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 (, , , or ) 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:
- Basic Contig
PDF game board and instructions for one of my all-time favorite math drill games. Requires 3 regular dice, markers, and a piece of scratch paper for keeping score.
- Contig Jr.
Also from Mathwire, for younger students who need to practice addition and subtraction only.
- Math Games for the Classroom
Includes Number Neighborhood, a variation of Contig, along with several other games.
- Contig: Fun with math facts
Several Contig variations, including special number-shaped game boards for 3rd-6th grades and an amazing 16×16 game board for advanced players. The zipped lesson download also includes a simpler “Tic-Tac-Toe Math” game for 1st-2nd grade students who are not ready for the full-fledged Contig game.
- Contig: a game to practice and sharpen skills and facts in the four fundamental operations
The original article about Contig by F. W. Broadbent, published in The Arithmetic Teacher, May 1972.
This post is an excerpt from my book Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available now at your favorite online book dealer.