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Tabletop Gaming Club makes math and storytelling connections

on November 20, 2019

Two students playing checkersAt first glance, the Middle School’s Tabletop Gaming Club is just that: kids playing tabletop games. 

But stay awhile and you’ll find out that it’s about more than getting kids away from game consoles and creating a space for direct interaction.   

Advisors Thomas Kelly, math teacher, and Pete Stika, one-on-one teacher aide, take turns with the various groups playing card games, mancala, connect-4, checkers or chess. 

While math is implicit in any of these games in varying degrees, Mr. Stika and Mr. Kelly make it explicit when the opportunity arises.Teacher and a group of students playing a game of cards

During a game of Blackjack, students were challenged to think in terms of probability as a way to assess their chances of winning or losing. Having established that the most popular number in the game was 10, Mr. Stika asked, “How many chances do you have at getting a ten? Think of it as a fraction.” As the 10s turned up, they added them up and again questioned how many chances they had left for getting a 10. 

Appealing to other, shared interests among club members—e.g., “Choose your own adventure” books and the Dungeons and Dragons video games—advisors are also highlighting the storytelling aspect of gaming and encouraging students to create their own.  

Teacher talking with student and drawing on a sheet of paperInstructing a student attracted to the possibilities of controlling a game’s narrative, Mr. Stika recommended that he first decide on the length of the game’s story and what it might be about. “Determine a starting point and add a node for each action or decision until a plot and path emerge,” Mr. Stika said, illustrating possible game actions and course on a sheet of paper. “Then you can worry about a point system.” 

Advisors also encourage personal choice and a sense of community by inviting students to bring in their favorite tabletop games and share them with their peers.

Students playing mancala while two teacher observe“And remember, we’re not playing the sore-loser game. We’re all here to learn,” Mr. Stika said to the group as they settled down. 

The Tabletop Gaming Club welcomes all seventh and eighth graders and meets on Wednesdays and Fridays, in Mr. Kelly’s room, during unit lunch. 

 

 

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