Game Sticks

Adaptations of this gambling game are played by indigenous peoples in parts of the US, Mexico and Canada. Native Americans used materials such as bone, wood, animal teeth, walnut sheels, and fruit pits to make gambling sticks and dice.

The following game can be easily and inexpensively made from tongue depressors. This game can be used to explore probability and statistics. Students can color the sticks with their own designs, and store them in a plastic zipper bag.

MATERIALS:
Tongue depressors (6 per player)
Counters (10 chips, beans, paper clips, etc per player)
Permanent markers or colored pencils for decorating sticks
Bank (any shallow container for chips)

ACTIVITY:
Each player needs a set of 6 game sticks and 10 counters.
Each player tosses their 6 sticks, the player with the most designs up plays first.
Players take turns throwing and scoring counters. Whe the counters are gone from the bank, a player may take from other players. The player who wins all the counters wins the game.

Counters are won by each toss of the sticks as follows:

All 6 sticks design up Take 3 counters
All 5 sticks design down Take 2 counters
3 design up & 3 design down Take 1 counter
Any other combination Take 0 counters

DISCUSSION:
1. After playing the game several times, ask students to determine how many different ways 6 sticks can fall.
2. Have each pair of student throw the 6 sticks 30 times, recording how they fall.
Make a table showing the results of each outcome: 0 up, 1 up, 2 up, 3 up, 4 up, 5 up, and 6 up.
3. Compile each pair's data to make a class total for each category. Graph and determine the experimental probability of each outcome. Discuss the theoretical probability of each outcome.

(Adapted from Math Around the World, Regents of the University of California, 1995)

Lesson plan