Dividing for resources in Stone Age

August 5, 2013

ImageStone Age is a 2-4 person worker placement game created by Michael Menzel and published by Hans IM Gluck and Rio Grande Games. In Stone Age, players take turns building their civilizations by collecting various resources and trading them for huts and civilization cards, each of which earn the players victory points during or at the end of the game. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner.

Each player begins the game with five wooden workers. Going around the table, each player places one or more workers on the circles next to the resource they wish to collect (see image below).  For the purpose of this article I will focus on gathering food, wood, brick, stone, and gold.

After all workers have been placed, the action phase begins. Each player in turn will resolve all their workers on the board.  Each worker placed at a resource station allows the player one die to roll towards paying for that resource. The active player rolls the dice and adds them together.  The total of the roll equals how many points they have to spend on that particular resource. Food costs 2 points, wood is 3, brick 4, stone 5, and gold is 6.

ImageWe began playing Stone Age just before my son entered the third grade.  I knew he would be learning basic division and felt Stone Age would be a great way to reinforce what he was learning at school.  We played three games together and during each game my son would use his fingers, ask me to do the division, or just guess.  I needed to find a way he could perform the division himself.

I took out a bag of counters and placed them on the side of the board.  I told my son each time he rolled for resources to add the dice and count out that many counters.  Then divide those counters into ‘complete’ groups – a complete group being a group containing counters equal to the cost of one resource he was collecting.  I then told him to take one resource for each complete group created.

He was collecting gold at a cost of 6 points per piece.  He allocated 3 workers to the resource and therefore rolled 3 dice. He rolled a 6, 5, and 3 for 14 points.  He counted out 14 counters, then divided them into 2 complete groups with 2 left over.  He looks to me and says “Two! I get two!”

“Correct!” I respond.

“14 divided by 6 equals 2!” he continues.

“Yes! … Wait! No!” I blurt out quickly, hoping I got there fast enough before he committed that to memory. I had to teach remainders quicker than I thought.  So I explained that the extra counters were called remainders and since they do not form a complete set, they are not part of the arithmetic.  I told him to subtract them from the total points and he will have the proper equation.  ”So 12 divided by 6 is 2?” he asked.  ”Exactly,” I said (this time being correct).

For the rest of the game he needed very little of my help.  He was excited to play and use the counters.  As we continued, I made sure he stated each equation out loud. Towards the end of the game, I taught him the fact families.  After he finished grouping the counters he said, “30 divided by 6 equals 5!”

“Very good,” I replied, “now what is 30 divided by 5?”

He squinted his face thinking about it for a bit. “6?” he said, a little unsure of himself.

“Yes,” I replied, “whenever you divide something by a number, you can swap the answer and the dividend and still have the correct answer. So if 30 divided by 6 equals 5, then 30 divided by 5 equals 6.”  His eyes lit up – he understood.  I then asked him what 6 times 5 was, he thought for a bit and said, “30?” “Correct,” I said, “you can multiply the dividend by the answer and you will get the number you are dividing.”

The next day my son asked me, “Dad, how did you like the game last night?”

“I love that game,” I said, “how did you like it?”

“I liked it a lot, it’s a great way to learn math!”  I smiled and nodded in agreement.

We played another game a couple days later and I began to notice something.  When we first started to play Stone Age, he always sent his workers for food and not much else. But now he was beginning to gather all types of resources.  It dawned on me that he sent his workers for food not because he didn’t understand the strategy of the game, but because he didn’t want to deal with dividing by anything other than two.

But now he has a powerful tool at his side. The counters give him independence. He is free from the need to constantly ask others for help.  This freedom allows him to explore all the options and strategies the game has to offer. This, in turn, increases his enjoyment of the game, his score, and the confidence he has in himself.

How do you use Stone Age to educate?

Have you used Stone Age to teach a concept to someone else? Leave a comment telling us what you have done and we will update this post for future readers to enjoy.