Play Games & Learn Geometry with Shape Whiz #Review
Is it possible for a game about 2D geometry to be fun? What about challenging? And how about replay value, even for teens?
The concept is deceptively simple. There are two decks of cards. The “shape” cards are a standard size, and include two different difficulty levels – blue for the easier shapes, green for the more difficult. On one side of the shape cards are an outline of a shape in blue or green, placed on a black and grey grid. The reverse of each shape card carries eight properties for the shape on the front, including:
- number of sides,
- number of different length sides,
- total area,
- total perimeter,
- number of parallel sides,
- number of lines of symmetry,
- number of angles less than 90 degrees, and
- number of angles equal to or greater than 90 degrees.
The second deck of cards are the “whiz” cards, or as we’ve come to call them, the question cards, because they pose the question that we’re trying to solve as we play. These cards are the same width as the shape deck, but about half again as long. (Haven’t seen cards this shape before, but it’s a very nice solution to keeping the decks separated.) These are double-sided, and have a different property value on each side. (Examples: perimeter greater than 10, area between 10-12, at least two lines of symmetry, etc.)
To begin the game, both decks are shuffled. The “whiz” deck is placed to one side, while 15 (or 8 for a shorter or less difficult game) shape cards are dealt in a stack to each player. The players turn the top three cards of their stack face-up in front of them.
Each round then is played by a whiz card being flipped and placed in the middle of the table, and each player attempts to find a face-up shape card that meets the requirements. Players may seek among any of the face-up cards on the table, their own and those of other players. When they find one, they move it to the middle of the table.
Only the first card moved to the middle of the table counts; the others are moved back to their places. Depending on the correctness of the choice, and whose card it was, the card is discarded or moved to the bottom of a player’s deck, and the empty space is replenished from a player’s stack or the extra supply.
The game ends when a player has emptied their stack. (There will still be face-up cards remaining in front of them, and that’s fine – they don’t need to be used to finish the game.) This particular detail is a source of amusement and/or annoyance to us, depending on the player; we’ll often not realize that the game is over until after we’ve played an extra hand or two, and the person who has already won goes to replace a card, and discovers that their stack is already empty.
We learned quite rapidly that we have one player that is an absolute natural at this game – he sees them almost immediately, especially when playing just the blue (easy) deck. We experimented with including some green cards in just his stack, to see if it would slow him down just enough to make the game a bit more even and fun. It worked surprisingly well, because the initial instinct (and best strategy, really) is to use cards from those in front of you if possible, before using the cards of other players. So don’t assume this won’t be playable if you have varied skill levels, because it is adaptable. (I also considered, but didn’t need to resort to, adding additional cards to his stack, which would be another method for difficulty adjustment.)
The manner of play – requiring speed – makes this a challenge that will get even math-capable adults, so don’t make the mistake of assuming it will be too easy. (It’s not. After some play, we’ve gotten quite a bit faster – but that balance between “fast” and “accurate” can be a tightrope at times.)
There is a minor typo in the formulas included in the rulebook. We didn’t notice it ourselves – all of my students have completed pre-algebra or above – so while we read the rules themselves, the formulas received a glance that was pretty much “oh, yeah, that’s a convenient resource for those who might need it”.
Shape Whiz has been a pleasant surprise – while we’d thought the game would be interesting, we hadn’t expected to enjoy it quite as much as we do. I fully expect that we’ll be playing this for quite a while, because we’re nowhere near memorizing all the details yet.
One final comment, yes, from the kid who is insanely good at Shape Whiz – “I wonder if they’re going to make one with 3D shapes…”
Some Schoolhouse Review Crew members received the game Expanders – follow the “more reviews” link below to learn about it!