Sunday, September 4, 2022

Sorry, It's Fractions

 Some years I'm fortunate to be able to lead a capstone seminar where future teachers research math games and develop a math game of their own.

This is Alaina Murphy's game, Sorry, It's Fractions. She was really persistent in the playtesting for this game, and did a lot of work to make it fun while keeping the math content front and center in a natural way.

She writes:

When coming up with this game, I knew I wanted to make a game that dealt with some aspect of fractions. In my opinion, fractions are one of the first aspects of math that students begin to lose interest, lack understanding, and start to hate this subject. So fractions it was. Next, I wanted the game to peak their interest, while having some mechanics that they might be familiar with. Thus, I chose to utilize a board game that many kids have played at some point in their life - SORRY. This would allow kids to focus more on learning the math of this game in comparison to first trying to figure out how to play the game. So, I had the content area and the mechanics. The next step was deciding how this was going to work. I wanted to make sure that thirds and fifths were included in this game because I believe these are the scary fractions to students. I find that students have an easier time with even numbers, but give them an odd denominator and they are out. The best denominator for including halves, thirds, fourths, and fifths was 60. So what better way to help students understand the numerical value of fractions and become more comfortable with them than using a clocklike numberline! 

The rest of designing this game involved play testing to decide how exactly I would apply the mechanics and actually designing the game board. The best way to get students to want to do the math and find the most reduced fraction was to make the fractions they landed on special, rather than the cards. I wanted to ensure that the materials of this board game would be resources a teacher could acquire. So, the board can be printed or they can have students make their own, place markers can be anything - sticky notes, erasers, beads, paper clips it doesn’t really matter - and I either wanted to use dice or playing cards to move around the board. By using a deck of playing cards, students would be able to draw larger numbers and make it further around the board to larger fractions, because the probability of getting a card with a higher value is higher than if they were to roll dice. Plus, the probability of getting any value is equivalent between cards where it is not when rolling dice. In order to make the game faster for classroom use, I incorporated four entrances to home that all players can enter and reduced the number of place markers to two, requiring only two pawns to make it home for the game to end. I incorporated a lot of DRAW AGAIN fractions as a way to make it further around the board and as a catch-up mechanic. Bumping, swapping and sorry’s are also catch-up mechanics and they make the game more competitive, creating more interaction and discussion. Lastly, I wanted to use the colors of SORRY, but I also wanted to create a board similar to Prime Climb where the colors have meaning. So based on the factors of 60 I wanted to color coordinate the prime denominators.

  • ½ is blue which is a primary color because 2 is a prime number.
  • Thirds are red which is a primary color because 3 is a prime number.
  • Fourths are a dark blue because 4 = 2 x 2 so it is the combination of two blues, producing a darker shade.
  • Fifths are yellow which is a primary color because 5 is a prime number.
  • Sixths are purple because 6= 2 x 3 so it is the combination of blue and red, producing purple.
  • Tenths are green because 10 = 2 x 5 so it is the combination of blue and yellow, producing green.
  • Twelfths are a dark purple because 12 = 6 x 2 = 3 x 2 x 2 so it is the combination of red and two blues or red and a dark blue, producing a dark purple.
  • Fifthteenths are orange because 15 = 3 x 5 so it is the combination of red and yellow, producing orange.
  • Twentieths are teal because 20 = 10 x 2 = 5 x 2 x 2 so it is the combination of yellow and two blues or green and blue, producing teal.
  • Thirtieths are gray because 30 has many factors so it is a combination of many colors but one less than 60 making it gray.
  • Sixtieths are black because 60 also has many factors so it is a combination of many colors and they are irreducible so I wanted it to be the same color as the outline. 

This is a great game for all types of learners to become more comfortable with fractions. Visual learners will be able to utilize the clock model and color scheme, hands on learners will be able to use the structure and game aspect, auditory learners will be able to use the discussions and verbal addition and reducing, and if teachers had students make their own boards it would be useful for those who learn from writing. 

This game is a great way to get students excited about adding and reducing fractions while becoming more familiar with factors of 60, exploring prime numbers, and ultimately improving their understanding of fractions. Other applications of this game would be to refine subtracting fractions skills by playing the game counter clockwise and subtracting the value of the drawn card, rather than adding. In order to incorporate more unlike denominators, the game board could be labeled in the most reduced form (i.e. rather than 30/60, label it as ½) and the students would add the cards in the same way. This board could be used at a younger age range to better understand adding or subtracting and number sense by labeling the board with whole numbers and playing in a similar way - this variation could be useful for learning to read a clock as well! Lastly, this game could be modified to the unit circle with pi/12 radians or 15 degrees and played with dice - here it would be beneficial for students to create their board as they go using trig to come up with the value of each position. 

Some problems that apply to this context:

  • Reduce 24/60
  • Reduce 13/60
  • Which fraction is closer to one, ⅔ or ⅗? 
  • If there are 60 people at a party and 12 are vegetarian and 4 have a nut allergy what fraction of people at the party have a dietary restriction.
  • If it takes me ⅚ of an hour to get ready for school and the bus leaves in 48 minutes, do I have time to make it to the bus if it takes me 1/15 of an hour to walk to the bus stop? If not, how much time do I have to get ready?
  • If I am 3 minutes away from the bus stop and it takes the bus 1/10 of an hour to get to my stop, and my sister walks 11 minutes home from school. Who will get home first? What fraction of an hour will it take each of us to get home?



The teachers also made a video for a math game they wished to promote. While there are other videos for games called Guess My Rule, Alaina wanted to share her own take. I heartily endorse this, and have used it myself from 2nd grade to university. She writes:

There are various reasons why Guess My Rule should be used in your classroom. First of all, this game requires little to no materials - no printing, cutting, or random pieces needed. As long as students have a way to record numbers they will be set. Games, such as this one, will get students thinking about math in a fun, hands-on way that encourages collaboration and critical thinking. With this version of the game, students are encouraged to explore functions and identify patterns that will allow them to predict outputs and eventually deduce a rule. This game will give students an opportunity to experiment with expressions, practice solving equations, and familiarize themselves with symbolic representations. 

If you are not convinced yet, there are so many ways that we can apply the framework of this game to learn and practice math!  If you plan to use this game in an algebra class you will not be wasting your time, because it can be applied to any algebraic function and even graphs. In geometry this game could be used for guessing what axiom a figure or statement applies to or for learning terminology by grouping correct shapes. It can also be used with younger kids to learn simpler arithmetic. Lastly, we can extend this problem to higher level learners and explore various rules at the same time, not limiting the rule keepers to linear functions but allowing them to pick from any range of functions. So why not use this game?


  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.F.B.5 Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear).
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.F.B.4 Construct a function to model a linear relationship between two quantities. Determine the rate of change  and initial value of the function from a description of a relationship or from two (x, y) values, including reading these from a table or from a graph. Interpret the rate of change and initial value of a linear function in terms of the situation it models, and in terms of its graph or a table of values.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.F.A.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions). 
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.F.A.1 Understand that a function is a rule that assigns to each input exactly one output. The graph of a function is the set of ordered pairs consisting of an input and the corresponding output.1


  • Rule Keeper makes a rule
  • Rule Guessers take turns giving an input
  • Rule Keeper records input, calculates output (secretly), and records the output
  • Rule Guessers continue to one by one give inputs until they feel they have found the rule
  • ON THEIR TURN, Rule Guessers must say I would like to guess, then they must give an input AND predict the output of their given input.
  • Rule Keeper informs the guesser if the output is correct
  • If the output is CORRECT, the Rule Guesser guesses the rule
  • If the output is INCORRECT, the next Rule Guesser continues giving an input or they can choose to guess.
  • If the Rule Guesser successfully guesses the rule, they will become the next Rule Keeper and the current Rule Keeper becomes a Rule Guesser

Link to John's version of the game.

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