Mathematics Awareness Week 1996

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Computer Undercut:
Suggestions for Teachers

Computer Undercut: Suggestions for Teachers

Undercut is a wonderful way to introduce the mathematics of games. When you first play the game, ask for two volunteers to play. Bring them to the front of the class and place them at opposite ends of the blackboard or whatever you have in the front of your room. For each play of the game, each player will write on the board his or her choice of number and what the accumulated point total is. Give them each a piece of cardboard which they can use to shield what they write down. To start the name, you say "1,2,3, write" and they write their number down. The players then compare their selections and write down how many points each would receive. You keep repeating the process until one player wins.

After playing a couple of games, ask the class if there is a best way to play this game. Have them write a brief paragraph about how they would play. Compare these. Once the class has come up with the best way of playing, hold a class tournament. Figuring who plays who is a great exercise and would be very appropriate at this time of year when interest in tournaments is very high because of the NCAA basketball tournament.

If you want some help with this send me some e-mail, and I'll send you some notes on how you can do this. Ask your class why the terms, "sweet 16" and "final 4" are used. I found the class tournament to be a really exciting event. Don't be afraid to play yourself (and to lose, the students will love it). Next, I would have the students test their strategies by playing Computer Undercut and to see how they do. If the students get really interested in the game, have them check out some of the given references.

-- Jonathan Choate

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