Local teacher publishes educational math game

By Kyle Kuphal (February 17, 2012)

Math can be tough. And the old model of drill-and-practice-style teaching doesn’t work for all students.

That’s part of what led Pipestone Area Schools teacher Craig Boeddeker to invent an educational card game called “Who’s Counting.” The game is designed to help children learn the basics of math in a way that makes it fun and engaging.

“It was important for me to try to find some resource that would enable my students to participate in multiple constructions and reconstructions of such things as a simple math sentence,” Boeddeker said. “To get them engaged in those, rather than it simply being drill and practice.”

That concept eventually led to the idea of creating a game that was “first and foremost educational, but equally as captivating” as commercial games such as UNO, Monopoly or Risk, Boeddeker said.

In the game that resulted, Boeddeker said he believes “those elements exist.”

The game involves cards with both numbers and the math symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Players use the numbers and symbols to get the highest score they can with a hand of seven cards.

Red special cards allow players to take away their opponent’s score, make it negative, or take some or all of their opponent’s points for themselves during any hand. There are also blue special cards that can double a player’s score, wildcards that can be used as numbers or operations, cards that give a player an extra turn and cards that nullify an opponent’s red cards.

Boeddeker said he’s tried to incorporate games into his teaching throughout his 13-year career as a way to connect with the students.

The idea for Who’s Counting was conceived on pages of notes that Boeddeker still has; came to life on recipe cards that he started using in his classroom about five years ago; and matured into printed cards that he designed on his computer and had printed at a print shop.

In January, Who’s Counting graduated to publication by Teacher’s Professional Resources, LLC. out of Lakewood, Colo., a “community of highly creative educators, designers, artists, and storytellers who have made it their mission to banish boredom from the classroom one fabulous idea at a time,” according to the company’s website.

Boeddeker said he was recommended to the publisher a few years ago by former PAS teacher Caroline Marion who had developed and published some learning tools of her own and who’s sister-in-law founded Teacher’s Professional Resources.

The publisher kept the game largely as Boeddeker designed it and added the story line of the Whozits — “a society based entirely on math” where “the math teachers are among the most revered of citizens.” As the story line goes, one Whozit’s math error in a lab led to the creation of a destructive green goo and the only way to stop the goo and save the Whozits is by playing Who’s Counting.

The game is intended for ages eight to adult and recommended for play by two or three people, or six players in teams of two. It’s currently available for sale online at www.teachersprofessionalresource.com and Amazon.com, and Boeddeker said the publisher is working to put it on the shelves in retail outlets like Barnes & Noble and Marbles. Boeddeker’s also hoping to sell it at local stores in the near future.

While Who’s Counting is Boeddeker’s first published product, he’s already working on a new addition called Who’s Connecting that will involve geometric concepts.

He was also invited by Debra Hansen, Teacher’s Professional Resource CEO, to speak at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) Minnesota conference in Duluth in May — an honor, he noted, that was previously bestowed upon his daughter, Erin Lindsay, who is also a math teacher. Boeddeker said he plans to talk about using a variety of teaching methods to meet the learning needs of all students equally, which is exactly the idea that spawned Who’s Counting.

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