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:

Snugglenumber picAnd 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”?