Thursday, November 12, 2015

How do you play Bi-N-Bi?

I spent a lot of last winter playing Bingo with Dad - sometimes, three days each week; it was a bit much. Don't get me wrong, Bingo is a fine game. However, it isn't very challenging. 

"Find this number. And, by the way, it's in this column."

I understand the point (and keeping track of multiple cards with an "auctioneer" calling the numbers can be a struggle) but I wanted more. So I began to wonder what it would be like if I could cover a pair of numbers that summed to the number that was called. For example, 46 is called and I cover 30 and 16 instead. I tried this during a few games and found that most of the times when I could decompose a number into two addends, I was using the B and I columns. This lead me to create my own card.

I liked the simplicity of this design. It would be easy to create, and players would have to decompose numbers greater than 45. Also, because the game included the element of choice, everyone didn't need a different card. Hilary could cover 43, John could cover 22 and 21, and Andrew could cover 13 and 30. (I planned to only call the number, not the accompanying letter; this would allow players to pick numbers in any column.) Finally, I liked the name, Bi-N-Bi, because it could reinforce decomposing numbers into two (bi) addends.

Today, I tested the game out in the classroom of a teacher I've been working with this semester. For the first game, I gave everyone a copy of the card shown to the right to see if the element of choice was enough to keep it interesting. The B and I columns were repeated to make it easier for players to know what numbers were available. I started out making sure that everyone was familiar with the goal of Bingo - getting five in a row or the four corners. The sixth-graders agreed that this wasn't very challenging, and they were excited to explore the changes I was suggesting.

The last issue to address was checking to see if a winning card is accurately covered. A player cannot simply call out the numbers, as happens in the original game, since many covered numbers are the result of decomposition and not because they are directly called. I toyed with idea of players marking the number called on the two chips used to cover the addends but I found that confusing when I tried it (and it meant cleaning the chips or throwing them away afterwards - not very sustainable). So I had players write their number sentences out on scrap paper. For example, if I called 34, 8, and 22, players might write:

  • 34 = 8 + 26
  • 8 = 3 + 5
  • 22 = 0 +22

And then they'd call, "Bi-N-Bi," provide each of the number sentences, and tell which of the addends they had use in their five in a row: "On the diagonal, I covered 8, 26, free space, 3, and 22."

With the instructions out of the way, I explained to the sixth-graders that I was looking for their feedback. I wanted to know what worked, what didn't, and what we might try differently. They were eager to be a part of the testing of this prototype and said so. 

A bit more nervous than I thought I'd be, I picked the first number. How'd it go? I'll tell you - in the next post.