Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fluxx: A card game where the rules and goals are constantly changing

Fluxx (Amazon affiliate link here) is a card game where the rules and conditions for winning are constantly changing as you play. There are a ton of different themed versions, a few of which are pictured below (images lead to Amazon affiliate links).


How does the game work? You start out with the basic rules: draw a card, then play a card.  Among the cards that can be played at goals (which tell you how to win the game), new rules (which change the rules of the game), keepers (most goals involve collecting a certain combination of keeper cards), and actions (when you play the card, you do whatever it says).

What makes this game mathematical?
  • Playing this game develops mental flexibility, which is very important for mathematics (and life in general)! For example, you might need to switch to a different method when solving a problem, or change your research question as you investigate.  You have to be willing to let go your original idea when it's not working and try something new.  
  • Understanding and keeping track of the current rules and goals require a good amount of mental effort - especially when a bunch of new rule cards are active at once or you have one like inflation (which adds one to all the numbers on cards).  I see this process as very similar to that of carefully reading a math problem and working to understand the situation it's describing and the question it's asking.  I find that a lot of students struggle with this.  In most games, learning the rules is a once and done kind of thing, but in Fluxx it's something that you have to do constantly.  
One frustrating thing about this game is that the amount of chance involved makes it hard to play strategically.  The box says ages 8 and up, but I've only played it with middle schoolers through adults.  It takes 2 - 6 players, and usually is pretty short (< 30 minutes).

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