Twenty Four Game

from Susan Richman

Twenty Four (math game). Tired of math computation drills? Try this terrific card game as an alternative that will require your kids to use number relationships in flexible creative ways using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division--and lots of thinking!

Review by Susan Richman

Summer 1991 issue of PA Homeschoolers

So many parents try drilling and grilling those "math facts" into their kids' heads. Speed tests, page after page of the "100 facts" done in less than 3 minutes, flash cards flashed fast and frequent. I guess some kids like this sort of approach, or maybe even benefit from it, but we have rarely done that sort of thing here (or if we have, I'm usually somewhat disappointed in the results, if not in my kids' attitudes). For me, it's always been much more important to help my kids think mathematically, and use those number relationships and ideas for some end other than just speed of regurgitation of specific facts (I admit here I even hate the term "math facts"; I prefer to think of working with and understanding "math relationships"). I want my kids to be able to think flexibly with their math, and see how numbers form patterns of overlapping meanings all webbed together beautifully. So when I found out about the game TWENTY- FOUR, I knew it would be for us, and we've now decided to add it to our catalog.

It was fun to find the game was developed by a Pennsylvania man, Robert Sun, who lives right in Easton. A native of China, Mr. Sun apparently has always been drawn to math as the universal language. Here's how his card game works. Each card has four numbers printed in a circular design (nice, appealing geometric design, too), and the task is to somehow, using addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, make these numbers equal 24. There are three levels of play in the game, clearly marked by little colored dots in the corners so the third grader can play at an appropriate level, and there are also good challenges for the parents, even the dad who is super at math.

Here's an example of a possible card from level one: The numbers are 6, 2, 2, and 8. So you start trying some possibilities out: How about just adding them all up? No, that only gives you 18. Have to try something more complicated.... How about a touch of multiplication? That should get us to a bigger number.... let's see, how about 6 x 2 = 12, 12 x 2 = 24! Oops, but we DO have to use every number and we still have that 8 leftover--back to the drawing board. How about 8 x 6 = 48, 48/2 = 24... but now we've left out that other 2! Hmmm... perhaps we could go with some subtraction and then some multiplication. Maybe 8 - 2 = 6; 6 - 2 = 4; 4 x 6 = 24!!! I've really done it now, using all four numbers one time, and getting to 24! I hope you can see how kids playing this game have to do lots of mental figuring, lots of computation and juggling and retrying, and risk taking--and if they want to play with other kids in a competitive format (not required!) they have to begin to do all these things FAST! Sun suggests that if a solution takes you 3 minutes you're "REAL sharp," in 6 minutes you're "warming up," and if it takes ten minutes, "get in shape."

An intriguing thing about the game is that many of the cards will have several different solutions, using different operations on those four numbers to get to that answer of 24. I think this should be a particularly freeing idea for the child who has been fed the notion that all math problems have only one correct solution. With this game, in a sense, you're given the "solution" already--it's always 24, but what you have to find out are the many pathways to that destination.

Our federal congressman, Bill Clinger, even sponsored a district wide tournament with the TWENTY-FOUR game this spring and our homeschool group was welcome to participate (we couldn't make it because of scheduling conflicts) and I hope this may be offered next year also. The game would be particularly useful with groups that take part in the MATH OLYMPIAD program, as a warm-up flexible thinking activity, or support groups might want to actually run their own local tournaments with the game (with maybe even a statewide homeschooling meet somewhere???). I'd recommend the game for all age kids, third grade and up. With the younger kids you just work cooperatively with them awhile to help them see the possibilities. Regular play of TWENTY- FOUR will do wonders for your kids real math abilities, things that repetitive rote drill will never do.

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