How to Play Trash Can Math

I have been wanting to share this game for SO LONG!

 I learned this game two years ago when I was filling in for a teacher on maternity leave.  We got to spend 4 days together for transitioning (which now that I think back is AMAZING!)  I truly learned so much from her! And get this, she is also Mrs. Stahl!
Short story long: I was getting married that September so I started the school year off as Miss Fitzpatrick and then changed to Mrs. Stahl.  So I was Mrs. Stahl filling in for Mrs. Stahl.  Kind of confusing, no?  We made sure to warn the parents ahead of time so they weren’t wondering why pregnant Mrs. Stahl came back to school 2 weeks after having a baby.
Anywho.  The name of the game is Trash Can Math.  Although no actual trash cans are involved.  You could probably change that to make it more realistic but that’s up to you.
You will need:     -1 dice*
                                             -dry erase markers
The game is simple.  Tell students we are trying to make the BIGGEST number we can by rolling the dice 3 times (or 4 if you choose to include hundreds).  The catch is, we can only use the number once and we have to pick a spot for it before we roll again.  We CANNOT move the number once we picked its spot or that will be cheating.
The board set up is like this:

(The T is for tens and O is for ones)
Choose a student to roll the dice.  Say they roll a “1”, well that’s easy—put it in the trash can.  You want nothing to do with that one because you can’t roll any lower—it’s only up from here.  But, of course, don’t reveal this thinking.  Make the kids do the work!

Then choose another student to roll again.  Say this time you roll a “4”.  Well that’s a little trickier and you kind of have to gamble.  You could roll a 5 or 6 next time so maybe don’t put it in your tens place just yet.  Or maybe do because there’s a chance you will roll 1, 2 or 3.  See where I am going with this people? This is HIGH ORDER THINKING at its finest!!
Last kid rolls, and obviously you put that number in the last open spot. Let’s say it is a “3”.  Then evaluate if you have made the highest number or not. {Can you feel the rigor?} Congrats, you just won your first game of TCM!!

The first few times we play as a class so we are all making mistakes or awesome decisions together.  After a few rounds, I let the kids put the numbers where they want but of course I question some of their decisions.  You always have that kid who throws out a 5 because he thinks someone will roll two sixes next.  And you ALWAYS have that sneakster who is trying to erase numbers so he “wins”.
*I use whiteboards but you could also laminate the page below and have kids write on that.  Or they could use index cards with numbers written on them.  Or something like that.  Possibilities are endless people! Click here or on the pic to get a free copy : )

*I was uber excited because I ordered these inflatable dice at the beginning of the year.

However, I didn’t think to blow one up ahead of time.  And I was 9 months pregnant.  So blowing it up in a timely fashion wasn’t happening.  Instead, I panicked thought quickly and used this virtual dice. Which aren’t actually called dice, they are referred to as “number cubes”. While it’s cool, the “number cubes” only goes from 0-4 or 0-5 or something.

Overall, I love this game because it can be short or long so it’s a great go-to if you have some extra time at the end of the math block.  Once kids are experts, you could have it as a choice for centers or if they finish early.  Add the hundreds or thousands place to differentiate.  SO MANY OPTIONS!

Well I hope I wasn’t too confusing explaining that.  If you have any questions still, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  Happy Teaching, all!

Share it:
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter

You might also like...