Tools to help make math interesting and fun have been very valuable in our household. My goal has been to help my oldest child, currently in fifth grade, enjoy rather than despise a subject that is naturally difficult for her. The most recent addition to our math toolbox is Albert’s Insomnia.
Albert’s Insomnia is a math card game played using various combinations of three to five numbers and any of the four basic mathematical functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There are several variations to the game, but all of them are built upon the same premise. The numbers are arranged in combination with the mathematical functions to create a given solution. The solution always begins with the number one. For instance, if the numbers 1, 3, 9, and 11 are dealt, the first action in the game is to arrange two to four of those numbers in such a way as to come up with 1 as the solution. In this case, possible equations would include 9+3-11 and 11-9-1. The next action would be to find an equation with 2 as the solution, such as 11-9, 9/3-1, or even 11×1-9.
There are two primary weaknesses I see in Albert’s Insomnia.
- The scoring guidelines seem to simply be the creator’s ideas intermingled with the game rules. As such, they are not very clear. The rule pamphlet would be much more complete were it to include a section devoted exclusively to scoring.
- The foundational game upon which the variations are based moves very slowly. My daughters have pretty solid attention spans, but we have never succeeded in completing what the rules would describe as a complete game. We prefer the variations, especially the timed ones that increase the pace of the game dramatically.
But, the strengths of Albert’s Insomnia definitely outweigh the weaknesses.
- The learning curve is simple. My third and fifth grade girls essentially learned the game on their own, and they love exploring all of the variations.
- Albert’s Insomnia is easily played across a wide variety of skill levels. An adult can be sufficiently challenged by the same hand that is simple enough for a second grader.
- The game is so versatile that a deck of cards can entertain one child, a family on game night, or even a whole classroom!
- It is a fantastic occasional substitute for math fact drills.
The best endorsement for Albert’s Insomnia, though, comes from my fifth grader. In the middle of nearly every game she enthusiastically exclaims, “I love this game! It makes math fun!”
Last Updated: January 2, 2012
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