Home Free Lessons Dots and Boxes
Dots and Boxes

About This Game

Topics: Logic, Counting, Shape Recognition, Strategy
Materials: Dot Paper, pencils or crayons
Common Core: K.CC.B.5, K.CC.C.6, K.G.B.5, 1.G.A.1, MP1, MP6, MP7

A game of squares and strategy that is easy to learn and hard to master.

This classic game is great for strategy, mathematical thinking, and basic counting and addition.

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.

Example Game

This graphic of a small game of Dots and Boxes from Wikipedia.
Players A and B play a game in nine turns.
Notice that A’s last turn consists of several moves, since every box completed gives A an extra move.

Prompts and Questions

  • Is it better to go first or second?
  • Why did you win/lose your last game?
  • Are draws possible?

The Wrap

Ask students how many boxes there are altogether in a finished board.
What are the possible scores?
For example: 9 to 0, 8 to 1, etc. Can they come up with all the possible scores?

Tips for the Classroom

  1. Small games are better, especially to start.
  2. Play enough demonstration games with students so that the rules are clear.
  3. Use different colored crayons or pencils while playing for a clearer game.
  4. Placing square tiles on completed squares may help keep track of the score.

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