The game of Snugglenumber has taken my school by storm. Kids from 3rd grade to 10th grade Algebra 2 beg to play it. It involves the seemingly mundane arithmetic concept of place value. And yet, everyone loves it.

Want to learn?

Here’s a Snugglenumber board:

And here’s how you play: It’s usually a two-player game, but I’ve played it with my whole class all at once – so it doesn’t really matter. Each player gets a board. You’ll notice that there are numbers down the middle. Those are the snugglenumbers. You’ll also notice that there are little dashes next to the numbers, to the right and left. That’s where you do your snuggling (lines on each side so that you can play two games).

If you happen to have a ten-sided die, one player rolls that. (If not, get a deck of cards and dump the face cards. Ace can be 1 and ten can be 0. Draw one of those cards.) Next, each player writes the number on one of the dashes (on one side of the board). Don’t just place it anywhere, though. The goal is to use the rolled digits to fill in the dashes and make numbers that are as close to the snugglenumbers as possible!

The players roll the die or draw cards until all of their dashes are filled in. To figure out who won, each player subtracts the numbers they made from the snugglenumbers (or vice versa, depending on which is bigger) and adds up all of the differences. The player with the smaller total difference wins!

Now note that the 10, 25, and 50 have two dashes and the 100 has three dashes. Those represent place value. This is where some strategy comes in. Say you roll an 8. Where do you *really not *want to put that 8? I’d say in the hundreds place next to the 100. As they play, the kids get a sense for which places are the most important to the game. The hundreds place “weighs” the most, followed by the tens places and then the ones places.

As a class, we discuss strategies and worst case scenarios. For instance, we talk about the largest difference you could get if you put a 2 in the hundreds place by the 100. Which digits could you put in the hundreds place to get the best worst case scenario? It turns out that both 1 and 0 are your best bets.

After the kids play for a while, it can be fun to turn the game into a puzzle. If you fix the numbers and allow yourself to place them in whatever order you want, you can “solve” the game – find an arrangement that guarantees the snuggliest board. Possibly more amusingly, you can also make the least snuggly board – giving you the largest difference.

Oh, and did I mention that when you say Snugglenumber you MUST scrunch up your nose, smile adorably, and coo, “Snug-gle-num-ber”?

Denise Gaskins

said:What a fun game! I’ve played similar place value games, but none so cute. 🙂

I’m writing a book of math games for homeschoolers. Do you know who invented the game, so I can ask for permission to use it? Or did it just “evolve” as games sometimes do?

Anna Weltman

said:I’m glad you like this game! As for it’s evolution… I know I was inspired by another game, but the game in its current form is mostly my own creation. You certainly have my permission to use it however you like. I’d love to hear more about your book, too. Let me know if you have any questions about the game!

Denise Gaskins

said:I’ve made up similar games, inspired by the old PBS Square One TV show, which used to have a faux game show routine called “But Who’s Counting?” But I’ve never seen a version as cute as yours.

My book will have 15-20 counting and coin-value games for preschool and early elementary. It’s the first of a series for homeschoolers (my primary audience) on playing number games to build mental math skills. I will probably also include it in the addition/subtraction volume, since there’s plenty of subtraction practice in figuring out the score—for young children, I’ll probably suggest just scoring a point for being the snuggliest in each row.

Anna Weltman

said:That’s a good idea. There is quite a lot of subtraction involved– and if you want to avoid that, defining “snuggliest” is a great idea. Sounds fun! I look forward to seeing your books.

Pam Burke

said:This sounds like a great strategy game that I could use in my high school classroom, but I want to be sure I understand the rules. Am I right that one person rolls the die/draws the card and then both players placed the same number on their board? Do you always use the same 6 numbers on the board? And do you use the absolute value of the differences, or do you work with both positive and negative differences?

Anna Weltman

said:Hi, Pam! Yes, you’re right that one person rolls or draws a card and then both players place the same number. That way winning the game is not at all dependent on luck– just strategy. You do use the absolute value of the differences, so there’s no advantage for going under the number– though you could certainly change this. Also, I like to use a 10-sided die, to allow for digits 0 through 9. If you only have a 6-sided die, I’d recommend drawing cards instead. Thanks for your interest, and I hope you enjoy playing!

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