Sumoku is a combination of Scrabble and Sudoku. Players place pieces numbered 1-9 (6 and 9 are the same piece) into rows and columns so that the sum of the digits in each “word” is a multiple of a particular number (3, 4, or 5 depending on a roll of the dice). Each piece has one of six colors, and each “word” may use each color only once. Players score points equal to the sum of the digits in the “words” that they play. Whoever completes a row or column with all six colors gets another turn.

Does that sound complicated? The first time I tried playing Sumoku with two of my 8th grade students, it did not go particularly well. We had trouble keeping the rules straight and making sure we made legal moves. It probably didn’t help that it was an hour or two after school ended or that we were tired and hot. But in the two times I’ve played since then, I actually quite enjoyed the game. It’s not as complicated as I originally thought, but it does take quite a bit of thinking. I forgot what move I wanted to make about twenty times because I kept exploring other possibilities!

I’m not sure how I’d use Sumoku with my students. It might be fun to include as a game for Math Club or possibly if we have down time during class. One game takes up a lot of time, though, and that’s with two adults. My 8th graders don’t add as quickly as I do, nor do they have the experience I have playing games. Thus, it’s likely that a game of Sumoku would take my students a significant chunk of time. I’m not sure if it could hold their interest long enough. I’ve only played Sumoku with two players, so perhaps it’s more exciting with more people. I can definitely see the benefits of using it – even with older students – to reinforce numeracy skills, but I will certainly need to continue thinking about the best way to do so.

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