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Have You Got It?

Can you explain the strategy for winning this game with any target?

Nim

Start with any number of counters in any number of piles. 2 players take it in turns to remove any number of counters from a single pile. The loser is the player who takes the last counter.

FEMTO

A new card game for two players.

Slippery Snail

Age 7 to 16
Challenge Level

Slippery Snail

 

Can you win this game by getting the last bug into the snail's mouth?

This is a game for two players. You could use the interactive below to play against the computer, or a friend. There is also a game board available here.

Four bugs are placed on certain spots on the snail.
Take it in turns to move any bug, moving out towards the snail's mouth (the star). You can move a bug any number of spots but bugs cannot jump on or pass each other.
When a bug reaches the snail's mouth (the star), it is out of the game.

The winner is the player who gets the last bug into the snail's mouth.

Play as many times as you like.

Can you find any strategies that might help you to win?

You might wish to change the settings to make analysing it easier.
 

Tablet/Full Screen Version

 

Could it make a difference who goes first?
What happens if there are more or fewer spots to start with?
Does it matter if the counters begin in different places?

 


Why play this game?
This game offers a motivating context in which children can improve their logical thinking skills.  It is a low threshold high ceiling game that is easily accessible but, at the highest level, has the potential to be generalised.

Possible approach
To start with, invite the children to play the game several times in pairs to get used to how it works. Students can either use the interactivity or a game board and four counters (available as a word or pdf document). You may notice some of them start looking for a way to win, so use a mini-plenary to discuss this as a class. Together, play against the computer - what strategy is it using? Why? At what point do pupils realise they are going to win/lose the game?

Encourage the children to record their moves and help them to articulate their ideas about strategy with sentences such as, 'I noticed that when I ..., xxxx happened'. Encourage them to think more than one step ahead: 'If I do this, then xxxx may happen and then I can xxxx. This would be useful because ...'.

Also encourage the children to articulate a hypothesis of 'how to win' and to try out their hypothesis a number of times. If it fails, they need to develop a new hypothesis. Children who think they have different winning strategies could play against each other and see what happens, taking it in turns to go first. Opponents will soon become partners in investigation as they test their hypotheses. Children may like to try out their winning strategy at home or at playtime.

Encourage them to think abut how they can record their winning strategy, maybe in the form of 'Top Tips'.

Key questions
What happens when there is one counter left? What about when there are two counters left?
Does it matter who goes first? Why or why not?

Possible extension
You can encourage the children to think about 'What if ”¦?' questions, such as:
What happens if you start the game with a different number of counters?
What happens if the counters start in different places?
What happens if there are more or fewer spots to start with?
Each time the conditions change, encourage children to adapt their winning strategy to fit the new conditions.

Possible support
You could offer to record a game for children who are struggling. You can then look back together at key moments. This might enable you to discuss what each player could have done differently at certain points in the game. Look closely at how the computer plays - can we work out what the computer's strategy is? Why is this a good idea? Can pupils work out a winning strategy based on how the computer plays?

You might want to adapt the game so that there are fewer spots/counters to begin with. If there are two counters, what would a good strategy be?