I am the greatest.
And yet I go on… Over the years I have encountered many a great teaching tool. And if the tool is a game, well then, so much the better. People love games—children especially. So, when one of the math teachers I work with introduced ‘I am the Greatest’ I almost died. It was so much fun.
It’s a simple game filled with randomness. The point is to get the biggest number. Period. Sounds simple, right? It is. But, it’s not easy.
The teacher rolls a 10-sided die. That way you have digits 1 through 9, and a zero. As each number is rolled—and called out—the students are supposed to write the number down in one of twelve possible number slots in an attempt to get the ‘greatest’ number—thus, ‘I am the Greatest’. They can’t wait to write it down, they can’t change things, they can’t erase, they just have to write and hope. That’s it.
We let the students know that if they scribble out, or we see erasure marks or any signs of possible cheating, they are done and don’t get to play. It’s that simple. And they don’t cheat because they have so much fun playing, they don’t want to be eliminated.
After all the numbers are rolled, we ask if anyone has the greatest number—all the rolled numbers in descending order. If not, we ask to see if someone has the highest number that was rolled (like a 9 or an 8) in the top spot. Then we start filtering through the class. “Who has (number, number, number)?” kind of thing. It doesn’t take long for the children to pick up on how the game works, how they are to behave and respond, they all want to be ‘the greatest’, but if they misbehave or create chaos, then we stop playing. They don’t want that, so they behave and are honest. It’s a self-correcting situation.
If you want to up the anty, and create a little more challenge, then make the students say the number correctly. Again, there are twelve possible locations that the rolled numbers can go. You have the hundreds (ones, tens, hundreds), thousands (one, ten, hundred), millions (one, ten, hundred), and three decimal locations at the end (tenths, hundredths, thousandths). This reinforces decimals and proper pronunciation of numbers. This also reinforces correctly understanding numbers and how they interact in math and math functions. It’s great fun.
Also, the teacher I work with, and I, play off each other well. As he rolls the die he’ll say things like (after rolling an 8), “I hope nobody put that in the top spot and then I roll a nine.” or, “How many spots do we have left? Two? Oh, I hope I don’t roll a zero.” Then, when that happens (’cause it does) and the kids collectively moan out loud in disappointment, I say things like, “Ahh, I love that sound. It makes me happy.” The children then get all mock-disgusted and yell at me, “You like it when we lose? You’re mean.” To which I respond with, “Yes I do, and yes I am.” Then I smile and keep moving about the room. Or, I’ll tell the other teacher, “It would be great if you could roll a zero. Some students have an open spot for one more nine.” To which he responds, “Zero, huh. Well let’s hope…” Then he’ll roll the die and the children just hold their breath waiting to find out what he rolled.
It creates a great atmosphere in the room, the children are attentive and excited, the teachers get more playful, and learning happens. Subtle understanding of just acting/doing, cause and effect, realizing you gotta pay attention and know stuff, and the occasional lesson of ‘Don’t cheat’ takes place under the guise of fun. All good stuff.
So, if you’re interested in being ‘the greatest’ in your classroom, here’s a file you can print out, copy, and then all you need is a 10-sided die (which you can find at most game stores or online). Have fun!