It is a well-known established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most really great discoveries are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There’s a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slipping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer’s head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the elevator, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.
This is thought of as somehow wonderful. It isn’t. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time traveling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss – Terry Pratchett
However some of these inspiration particles actually hit home! Very occasionally, some of them actually hit the cerebral jackpot – the Texas tea of the neuron world – the black gold of the brain.
In my opinion, this is exactly what happened to me, when I thought up the idea for NUMROS.
Now, it is very likely that a game like this has been created many times before, in many different ways, in many different schools. But that doesn’t matter!
I have created something I am genuinely proud of. Before Numros, I had another idea; and I think it was a pretty good idea. The game was called Grammar Slam and it has proved to be quite successful in the classroom. There is no doubt that I will be using the game again and I am sure it will continue to be a hit with the children. But it isn’t Numros!
So, what is Numros?
Hmm…where to begin?
I guess I have to start with the game’s origins, which are rooted in my nerdy game playing past. Once upon a time, I was a fully-fledged follower of Games Workshop’s Warhammer franchise. If you aren’t sure what Warhammer is, then I will enlighten you. Warhammer is a table top war game played with dice and miniature figures. It is played between two or more players and is set in one of two imaginary realms; one realm is a fantasy realm similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth and the other is set in the far future where the galaxy is ruled by a God Emperor.
When I was younger, I adored collecting Warhammer books and figures, as well as playing the game. Even now, I still read many of the novels set in these imaginary worlds. I have also introduced many of my students to the different army books.
And so, that is where the inspiration for Numros came from.
How does the game work?
Well, Numros is also a tabletop war game. Like Warhammer it also includes miniature figures (only six for each side though), a dice (only one), rulers, turn taking and strategic planning.
I have included the game’s rules below.
What is the purpose of this game?
As you may be able to tell, the game is primarily designed to help children understand different mathematical concepts like algebra, BIDMAS and measurement. The game’s turn-based fantasy theme draws students in like a beehive draws bears towards a honeycombed prize. The children are immediately hooked by the fact that NUMROS is a game not a lesson. Another important factor is that the maths needed to play the game is incidental and unimportant to the player! The game’s other hooks include: the competition of battling opponents to be the ruler of Numros, the tactics and strategies needed to outwit an opponent, the diversity and potential narrative of the different fictional characters, the ability to work and collaborate with others in a team and the joy that victory brings in the various individual battles that take place in the game.
When I first introduced Numros to my students, I originally shared the rules via a Google Document. However, to really get them engaged, I used the Gold Fish bowl technique to demonstrate the game’s mechanics.
What was their response?
The reaction was beyond anything I could have imagined! It simply took my breath away. They loved it! The Teaching Assistant, who works alongside me, had the great idea of creating a Google survey to catalogue the children’s responses. You only have to read it to see just how much they enjoyed it. I can honestly say that I don’t think I have had many better feelings in my teaching career than I had the first day Numros was introduced to my class.
The next step is to introduce the game to my maths set and then to more children in Year 6. I have already shared the game with another class in my year group and the feedback was excellent.
I have also added a some one-off spells to the game based on feedback to the first game we played as a class. Again, I have included the new spells below.
But it gets better!
Without doubt though, the best part of the Numros experience is the way the children have taken the game and adapted it to fit their purpose. They have already started to add their own rules. One group decided that figures would switch sides rather than be removed if an opponent lost a battle. Another group decided to switch the playing area so it would be smaller. Many of the groups changed the number of turns from five to a different number; another group thought it would be better to play to the last figure standing. The introduction of spells was talked about and introduced in a highly innovative way by one creative soul. Then there was the issue of dice – why have a six sided dice when you could have a ten sided dice?
Children have videoed their games for posterity. One ambitious group decided to create a video tutorial to help others better understand the game.
During game play sessions, I have heard the terms ‘messing around’, ‘play testing’ and ‘trialling’ used to describe the concept of figuring the game out. I simply cannot explain or describe the shear amount of learning that has taken place over two hours of Numros game play.
The possibilities for this game are endless and I am already thinking of adapting the game to have an historical purpose. I haven’t decided just how to do this yet but I will find a way…