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Christmas present maths

December 27, 2015

You’re probably won’t surprised to learn that, quite often, some of my Christmas presents are related to maths. However, sometimes my presents that aren’t overtly mathematical still leave me wondering mathsy thoughts. Here’s a selection (box) from this year.

In this game, there are a series of 55 cards with images on. The interesting thing is that if you pick any two cards there will be exactly one matching symbol. If you just spend a little time thinking about that, you’ll probably realise that that would potentially be a bit of a nightmare to make unless you used some maths to help you.

This game was the subject of a number of talks at the mathsjam 2015 annual conference and that’s the reason I requested it for Christmas. It’s a great game and easy enough to explain to a new player in under a minute. All you really have to do is identify the matching symbol on two given cards. My children like it and I’m genuinely finding it a challenge to beat them! There’s also an app version which I’ve not checked out yet.

Card shuffler
My brother bought me a card shuffler.

I’m actually very good at shuffling cards (and he knows this) but he was offering it as a possible way in to a probability lesson. I haven’t quite got to thinking about it in detail yet really but I’m trying to think of something that won’t be tedious to check. This will probably involve not using a whole deck but that’s about as far as I’ve got so far.

King of Tokyo
I like games. I’m always interested in games that are interesting for both children and adults to play. Snakes and Ladders is abysmal and barely counts as a ‘game’ since there’s no strategy in it at all. Monopoly junior is marginally better as there a a couple of very limited strategy decisions to make and it also leads to full blown monopoly.
I asked a game designer friend of mine for recommendations and he suggested I try King of Tokyo as a ‘enhanced yahtzee’ variant. The game is designed by Richard Garfield who invented Magic: the Gathering so it had a good chance of being great.

Essentially, you’re monsters trying to be king of Tokyo like in all the best movies. You roll dice in a yahtzee style (with rerolls) and then either damage other monsters, heal, gain energy or victory points. Energy points can buy you enhancements such as an extra head which allows you an additional dice or firebreathing which means you deal additional damage. As a tool that Richard seems to like using a lot, there are cards to represent the additional powers and the text on the cards allows you to ‘break the rules’ of the game. 

You (usually) roll six dice and they have faces as shown above. 1,2 and 3 are for victory points, the others are energy, damage and gain life respectively. The maths here relies on the fact that the probability behind what you might get gives you some advantage to playing and deciding what to reroll. It is a pretty complex game (certainly compared to Dobble) but it’s not that confusing. I’m certainly looking forward to playing it some more.

Reuben gained a skateboard. What’s the chance of us ending up in A&E? Was an obvious thought.
On the packaging, there’s some information:

Why the need for a mixture of metric and imperial measures? I personally think it’s probably about time imperial measures gave up (nobody would entertain having decimal and pre-decimal currency in use) but if people are going to insist on using it, they could at least pick one per job and stick to it. There’s that story about a NASA mission that had issues because one group was using imperial and one was using metric. I think I’ll this confusion over choice of units as an excuse if I have a go on the skateboard and fall off!

Selection box
Simple enough: A selection of sweets/chocolates put into an unnecessarily large amount of packaging and plastered with Christmassy images to make it seem acceptable to buy a child 6+ bars of chocolate in one go. My question is are these any cheaper than buying the bars individually? The solution to this question is left as  delicious exercise for the reader. 

Melody got a Lego Frozen castle. This prompted my dad to wonder out loud how they get the right amount of each item in the box. Ikea and other such places are also very accurate at getting the right amount of screws and bolts you need. I wonder in their case if it’s done through weighing them as they’re probably large enough to do that. I’m not so sure about individual Lego pieces but I suspect it isn’t. Still, if anyone knows anything about their packing process, I’d be interested to hear. (I once emailed Smarties to ask how they were packaged but they wouldn’t tell me.)
Another thing that always impresses me about Lego is the clarity of their visual instructions. I always find them very easy to follow and think there’s something to be learnt from a teaching point of view.

Ok. That’ll do for now. What was the most mathematical gift you got? Was there anything that isn’t overtly mathematical but made you think of maths?


From → Game

  1. Adam Atkinson permalink

    A talk at a previous mathsjam was about how there _ought_ to be 57 Dobble cards, really.

    • Ah yes, I saw that point made.
      I’d imagine it’s printing reasons as to why there are 55 rather than the full 57.

  2. Adam Atkinson permalink

    Yes I gather that 55 and 110 are the standard numbers of cards to print. If I did want a Dobble set I imagine I’d want to mock up the “missing” two cards.

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