I discovered the game of SKUNK on the Illuminations site. It is based on an article by Dan Brutlag, "Choice and Chance in Life: The Game of SKUNK," which appeared in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 1994), pp. 28-33. The accompanying handouts are good.

Brutlag notes that students may focus on who the overall winner is. In the context of life, this parallels concern with relative rather than absolute wealth. This is a large, philosophical subject. I want the students to think about how they can raise their average score per game, which of course does not depend on how others are doing. It would be interesting to consider game modifications that would encourage cooperation.

While you can present the game on a whiteboard, there is a lot of value in playing the game repeatedly, as students try various strategies, and managing the game on the board is tedious. Seems like just the thing for an app projected for the entire class. I wrote the app in Processing.

Here's how the game works. There are 5 rounds per game, each round corresponding to a letter in "SKUNK."

  1. At the beginning of each round, all players must stand.
  2. Roll the dice (click the app). If neither die is a one, everyone who is standing receives the points shown on the dice. Everyone is given the choice to remain standing or sit down. Then the dice are rolled again, and the process repeated
  3. If at least one of the dice is a one, everyone who is standing scores zero for the current letter, and the game advances to the next round. If the dice are two ones, everyone who is standing has their total game score reset to zero.
  4. If a player sits down, they cannot stand again until the next round.

What questions do you have? How might you answer them?

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