Dots and Boxes


Topics: Logic, Counting, Shape Recognition, Strategy
Materials: Dot Paper, pencils or crayons
Recommended Grades: K-2
Common Core:K.CC.B.5, K.CC.C.6, K.G.B.5, 1.G.A.1, MP1
A game of squares and strategy that is easy to learn and hard to master.

Why We Love Dots and Boxes

This is a classic you may remember from childhood. The game is like a more sophisticated tic-tac-toe: fun and challenging for young kids, with simple counting and shape recognition practice built in, and connections to deeper mathematical strategy at play in the background. A perfect game for stations or ten extra minutes.

How to Play

Dots and Boxes is a game for two players, played on a small grid of dots. On your turn, add a vertical or horizontal edge between neighboring dots. If you complete a square, get one point and go again. Keep track of the score by coloring in your square, or writing your initial inside it.Whoever has the most squares at the end wins.

Tips for the Classroom

  1. Small games are better, especially to start.
  2. Make sure to play enough demonstration games with students so that the rules are clear.
  3. Good questions for students to ponder include:
  •  Is it better to go first or second?
  •  Is there a winning strategy for Dots and Boxes?
  •  Why did you win/lose your last game?
  •  Are draws possible?
Only some of these questions will be answerable, but they’re all worth pondering as students get more exposure to the game.

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