*By Michael Hartley*

A while ago, I got this email from a teacher called 'K'.

*I am looking for a game to play on a chalkboard with a large group of 2nd-5th grade students. In the morning, before school begins the kids (2nd-5th) come into the gym and sit while waiting for the bell to ring to go to class. They sit there bored (most don't bring books) I have started playing games on the chalkboard (hangman...) to help get them thinking before class. I was hoping to find some math games to play also. Something I can lead and take charge of, they need to stay where they are seated (the floor) and not be too loud. Any suggestions?*

Tough call! This site does have some large group games, but not many that fit her criteria

- Mixed age group
- Kids must remain seated
- Not too loud

Then, I thought, K may have already provided the answer! Why not play a math-themed game of hangman? The unknown 'words' would all be mathematical in nature - names of shapes and other concepts, or even arithmetic sums. For example, the teacher might decide the hidden 'word' is 1+2+3+4=10, and write this on the board :

After guessing a few letters wrongly, maybe, the students would guess '1'. Then the teacher would write all the ones.

Since they know it's a sum, the kids now get clever, and guess '=', then '+'

After that, it's just trial and error - and a bit of mental arithmetic - before the whole sum comes out! Not convinced? I've put up a simple version (multiplication problems only) of math hangman online and called it Multiplication Strikeout. Have a go, and see what you think!

Of course, hangman need not be played only in a large group. It wouldn't surprise me if the kids in K's care start playing math hangman between themselves during recess.

Some tips :

- If your 'words' are all arithmetic sums, you should reduce the number of mistakes a player can make. 'Three strikes and you're out' would be reasonable. Perhaps this game should be called 'math baseball' instead?
- K didn't explain how she plays hangman with a large group of kids, but you could do it like this :
- Write the puzzle on the blackboard (or whiteboard)
- Ask for guesses, and make the children raise their hands before they are allowed to guess.
- Choose who can guess in such a way that everyone (eventually) has a fair opportunity to try.

Anyway, huge thanks to K, for the idea, and I'm sorry I didn't reply directly. Your email came through with no return address!

Yours, Dr Mike.