Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Summing Challenge!

Okay, so sometimes all we want to do is just play on our handhelds. I mean, come on, we can’t always do work on them, right? Well, that all depends on what the students view as work and what they view as play. One Freeware game that I had on my handheld from NECC 2005 was a math game called Summing. I became quickly addicted, even though I didn’t know HOW to play initially. I learned by trial and error and then by reading the blurb online. Here’s the setup, your game screen has 49 colored squares, each with a different digit. The squares are color coded so all the same digits are the same color. The left side of the screen contains a column of 4 colored squares with digits in them. This column contains your target number for each move. The object of the game is to clear the 49 squares on the board in the least number of moves possible. To clear squares, you have to figure out which combination of squares you can add together so the SUM in the ones column is the target number next in your list. Surrounding the 49 squares is a perimeter of blank squares. In order to clear out numbered squares, you touch an empty square that shares a side or corner with the boxes (one or more) you were able to add to reach the target number in the ones column. I think it’s a lot easier to understand when you have the game in front of you. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I did become addicted and when I first played (without knowing how) I was able to clear the board in a little over 300 moves. That was a definite beginner score for me. By the end of my first night, I cleared the board in the mid-80s range.

I had beamed the game to my fellow tech-team members at NECC, but they hadn’t really gotten into the game at all, due to their being busy with other things. I introduced the game to my students, who LOVED it! I informed them that their first task with the game was to become the TOP 5 scorers on their handhelds. The game is automatically set that the TOP 5 scores are 999 moves. This way, each child could become the winner on their own handheld and then challenge their own score as time passed. Oh, the craziness that ensued. One day, the principal walked in as we were playing. Oops, I mean developing strategies to become better thinkers! Well, I had to issue a challenge to her seeing as she was our leader at school. The Big Cheese! The Big Fish in our Pond! In the blink of an eye, students were gathered around her explaining how to play. At first, I think it made her more confused because none of the students wanted to stop to let another one talk. Eventually, we worked it out and a few students would share ideas with her as she worked to clear her board.

Then our other tech team member began to play Summing. Before I knew it, she was emailing me with lower and lower scores. It became a daily routine to announce to each other that we had beaten the lowest score earned: 27, 26, 25, 24, and 23. When she got the low score of 22, the competition got intense. I was then able to get my score down to 21. We proceeded to write it on my classroom board in 3-foot digits with colors blazing out likes rays from the sun. When my students came in that day, they asked me what the number meant on the front board and being their teacher I responded with, “I don’t know. It was here when I got in this morning.” Being that this tech team member is also in charge of our CCTV studio, we chose to announce the explanation to my Web-Heads on our school wide TV morning show. (Web-Heads is what my class named themselves at the start of the year. It fits in with our technology theme as well as my love of Spiderman.) Before we knew it, a new low score was announced, this time by our principal! She scored ¬¬¬20! The class loved it and wanted to get their scores lower. Our principal even mistakenly sent out the message, “Hey Web-Heads-Guess who got 20?” in an email to the entire staff.

On a side note, our school held “Family Nights” at a local McDonald’s restaurant the first Thursday of each month. The first night there, I started up a conversation with the manager and learned that he also used a Palm OS handheld in his work environment. We got to talking and he even got me on the Internet while there since it’s a wireless McDonalds. At the end of the night, I shared the information with my principal and we began talking to him some more. We told him about Summing and ended up beaming it to his handheld. Little did we know what would result from that little beam!

The manager wasn’t there the next month, but he was the following month. I asked him how he liked the game Summing and he said he was addicted. Then he told me his low score. Are you ready? It was 15! I couldn’t believe it! 15? The lowest any of us achieved at this point was 20! He showed me his Top 5 scores list on his handheld and 15 was there. Not once, but a few times, which meant he was able to repeat his success. As my students began coming in to eat dinner, I shared the manager’s score of 15. They couldn’t believe it either and demanded to see his Top 5 list. It was so adorable. Here’s this 9 year old standing approximately 4 feet tall, demanding that a full grown man of 6 feet prove his score. None of them were willing to back down from disbelief without seeing his score. One student would tell another as they walked in the door. I don’t think he got much managing accomplished that night.

You can find the Summing game at


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