Game Factory

Highsmith
www.teachinteract.com
PO Box 900, Ft. Atkinson, WI 53538-0900
800-359-0961

This is a book of games for grades 3-7, modified for grades 3-5 and 5-7 groupings. But these are not just any games; these are games that need testing. Are they fair games? Are the games weighted? Will Goodwin's Game Factory go under? The students are secretly "hired" to test the games and modify them to make sure they are fair. The games involve spinners, dice, coins, cards, and other hands-on objects. The unit culminates by testing the participants' ability to develop their own fair game to share with the rest of the class.

This is obviously written with a classroom situation in mind, but it could be used with a family as well. It isn't nearly as much fun with only one child, but it is still doable. It is not something done at the spur of the moment, however; pages must be photocopied onto card stock, spinners cut out, supplies gathered. It also takes a concerted effort on the part of the parent/teacher to get through the instructions without distractions to understand what is to be done. That was my biggest problem; The game sat for quite a while before I managed to accomplish that. But perhaps you are more organized and focused than I.

Once you wade through the instructions, the games are actually quite simple and can be quite intriguing. One game involves a set of spinners (4 letters on each spinner); two opposing players each take a spinner and spin them at the same time. If the numbers match, player A moves one space. If they don't match, player B moves one space. The first one to reach the finish line is the winner. It won't take long before it becomes obvious that this is not a fair game. But what if there weren't so many choices for the spinner to land on? Try a spinner with three colors. Or what if spinners with the numbers 1 through 6 were used and the two resulting numbers were multiplied together? If the product is odd, player A moves 2 spaces; if the product is even, player B moves 1 space. Is this fair? One last possibility: what if the players took turns spinning and moved their markers the number spun? Would that be fair?

I would recommend this with certain conditions. First, the parent/teacher must plan for time to figure this out before starting. Second, more than one child really needs to be involved--ideally 4 or more children so they can pair off into teams. That will add to the sense of competition and fun.

Product review by Nancy Wagner, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, November 2006