The Game of Nim

The Game of Nim Activity
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Updated on Jul 2, 2014
The Game of Nim Activity

Check out this simple version of a pairs game that's played all over the world. At first it might seem like simple counting practice, but there's a certain strategy to winning. Similar to mancala, this game gives your number whiz the chance to estimate and predict mathematical outcomes.

What You Need:

  • Small objects, like buttons, coins, toys or beads, etc
  • Two players

What You Do:

  1. Instruct your child to find 15 small things, for example: buttons.
  2. On each player's turn, he or she can take one or two buttons away. Take turns doing this.
  3. The loser is the player who takes the last button.
  4. Eventually, you can teach your child the winning strategy: Just make sure on her turn she leaves 13,10, 7, 4 or 1 objects. Give the game a challenging twist by using a different number of objects or by taking away different amounts.

Your child can teach her friends this game during lunch and be the hit of the cafeteria!

Reprinted with permission from "Math Detectives," the book that introduces geometry, probability, ratios, and more! Get your child on the case by becoming a "math detective" with this fun and engaging book. By Lalie Harcourt and Ricki Wortzman (Sterling Publishing, 2003)