by Joseph Hartman
Wholes: The Game is intended to reinforce in young players the understanding that fractions, percents, decimals conversions of fractions, and fraction graphics are all representations of values between zero and one whole on a number line. Additional concept reinforcements include the idea that fractions can be added together to create one whole. Wholes: The Game is intended for classroom use in grades as low as 4 and as high as 6. The specific curriculum area addressed by Wholes: The Game is under Number Sense "Write tenths and hundredths in decimal and fraction notations and know the fraction and decimal equivalents for halves and fourths." Read more of the Grade 4 Mathematics Standards for California here.
The game is designed for upper elementary students ages 9-11 or in grades 4-6. The strength of Wholes: The Game is that it reinforces already learned concepts. It is most effective with students who have studied fractions, percents, and decimals, but have not yet mastered the conversions between the three. While the game is intended for classroom use, it may be wise to provide a separate area for the students to play the game as it is likely the players will make noises during play that could distract others from learning. The game is designed to be played from beginning to end very quickly and is open to expansion packs of cards to reinforce fractions of different and more difficult denominators.
Who is the game designed for? Describe them in terms of their age, grade level, affinity towards the subject matter, and anything special about them that the reader should know.
Where would the game be used? If in a school, what accomodations would you need to make to do it in a typical classroom? Is it designed to be played more than once? What would happen prior to the game? What would happen after it?
The object of Wholes: The Game is to be the first player to reach the last space on the game board.
What's the game goal? What's the end state that players are striving for (e.g., to be the first to reach the Finish square, or to be the first to reach 100 points.)
Materials included in the box:
List each of the physical objects one would find in the box. For example, the board, each type of card, each type of prize or token, etc.)
After listing the materials, describe each in as much detail as needed. Include illustrations of the board and each type of card.
Game set-up takes only a few minutes to deal the cards and select game pieces. Depending upon how many players bluff and how often they are caught, the game length will vary between ten and twenty minutes. Play is not carried over from game to game.
Starting the game
Playing cards and moving on the board
Calling Bluffs Correctly
Calling Bluffs Incorrectly
Being a 6th grade math teacher, the first subject that came to mind was a game dealing with math. Understanding the correlation between fractions, decimals and percents seems to be a perpetual issue for young students, and it quickly became a subject I knew I wanted to explore for the game. Thinking about card games had already got me started on the idea of poker hands and bluffing, and when I remembered one of my most favorite and simple games from childhood (B.S.), I knew I wanted to incorporate the aspect of bluffing into my board game.
B.S. is very similar to Wholes: The Game. It simply requires that a player play all four cards of a given number from a standard deck during a turn to get rid of cards in their hand. The first player to get rid of their cards is the winner. Yet I recalled a fatal flaw in B.S., that the strategy of simply collecting as many cards as possible would almost always result in success. This is because the other players would be left with very few cards to play, while the collector would never be caught bluffing because he/she always had all the cards. To combat this flaw, I at first played around with the idea that players could move only one space during a turn. Trial games soon exposed that rule as unnecessary and hindering to the pace of the game. The rule that was put instead of this rule was that players could play only hands that equaled exactly one whole, no more, no less. Unless of course they were bluffing.
Another aspect of the early game that I abandoned was the idea of having "Safe" places on the board on every third or fourth space. The idea was that these safe places would be where a player would be moved back to if they had been caught bluffing, or incorrectly called another player's bluff. Unfortunately, trial games revealed this idea as complicated and unnecessary as well. Instead of helping players if they were caught bluffing or incorrectly calling bluffs, it encouraged all the players to call bluffs while they were on the safe space. The idea of moving backwards or forwards the number of spaces equal to the cards played during a turn eventually seemed to make the most sense and keep the game moving at a more desirable pace.
The most helpful experience in designing the game was in having other people play it. The comments that were made both in play and afterward were infinitely helpful in refining the purpose and rules of the game, while also reinforcing my idea that it could indeed work. Playing other game prototypes was also very helpful, as it forced me to notice what it was about games that was fun and exciting, as well as what aspects of games were cumbersome and unnecessary. Ultimately, the lesson that I took away from playing prototypes and having my own prototype played, was that the pacing of games is infinitely important. If a player's turn takes too long, the other player's lose interest quickly. As fast as I was sure my game would move, it moved far too slowly to be fun, and this was the case with several other games I played.
Last updated October 17, 2004