Recently, after an in class discussion on how to solve for area, I played a game called Area Block. It is a simple, yet effective game that is a good tool for practicing your area computational skills. It is a two player game , and is played on a grid. Players take turns making a single shape on the board that has an area of 10 or less. After the first shape is made, the rule is that each subsequent shape must share a side with the previously drawn shape. The game is over when the board is completely filled in. The winner of the game is the player who has the most area filled in.
The first time I played the game, my opponent ( who was also playing it for the first time) and I didn’t have any strategies, we were simply trying to figure out the game and trying to get as many points as possible. Our board for the first game was nicely divided and our score was perfectly tied.
After the first game we started trying to develop strategies. We tried starting different points and using different shapes. We noticed that by trying to think of strategies we had to think beyond our current turn. We thought of our area, and what shape our opponent would use, and so on. We were thinking of the shapes that would give us the most area, and that would be difficult for our opponent to work around. Despite our strategies our scores only differed by one point.
After the second round we thought we had a pretty good grasp on the game and played a round on a board that gave us more to think about. This board was not just a grid, but also had shaded in shapes already that we had to work around. This encouraged us to think about using our space wisely and what shapes would give us the most area. We still tried to use the strategies we developed in our second round. This round we also ended up with a perfectly tied score again.
If I were teaching are to my students I would incorporate this game or one like it. I like that it makes students think about area in multiple ways. They are able to have fun while practicing and are not just solving computations. They are forced to think about creating and solving for area with unique shapes, rather than taking the easy way out and only using rectangles. The open grid allows the students to get a feel for the game and the grids with obstacles already in it is a more advanced option for students who are further along with their understanding of area.