Students in elementary and middle school will enjoy this game of chance. It is a good follow-up to probability lessons. (Click here for a lesson plan on experimental and theoretical probability.) The game can be played as a whole-class activity or in small groups. I have found that it generates a great deal of excitement when the entire class plays together.
This game first appeared in the April, 1994, issue of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. Dan Brutlag introduced the game in his article, “Choice and Chance in Life: The Game of SKUNK.” He is the creator of the probability game.
Students use what they have learned about probability to make decisions involving choice and chance. The object is to accumulate the greatest number of points at the end of 5 rounds.
Students can simply make 5 columns on a sheet of paper and label them with the headings “S, K, U, N, K.” That is what my students did. Click here if you’d like a sheet of pre-made SKUNK sheets for students. There are 4 to a page. This SKUNK sheet from MathWire makes a good write-on/wipe-off, overhead display for the teacher to use.
Two dice are rolled–you can use these virtual dice–usually by the teacher. I would let the winner of game #1 roll the second game, and so on. If students are standing, they will be hoping there are no 1’s rolled.
- There are 5 rounds, one for each letter of SKUNK. Students have the choice of continuing to accumulate points in the round, or sitting for the rest of the round.
- A round is over when a 1 is rolled or when all students are seated.
- Two dice are rolled. Players who are standing add the sum of the numbers on the dice and add them to their scorecards for that round. They decide whether to continue or be seated.
- If a 1 is rolled, standing students lose the points they’ve accumulated for that round. The round is over.
- If double 1’s are rolled, standing students lose all points accumulated so far in the game. The round is over.
Students decide before each round starts whether they choose to stand or sit.
Note: On the first round, if a one is rolled, we disregard it.
Illuminations Lesson Plan Ideas for SKUNK
On the Illuminations website, you’ll find great accompanying activities for the game SKUNK. You can see example sheets of how scores are kept through a game. They also provide “Thinking about SKUNK” activity sheets. Students work in groups of 2 or 3 to answer questions such as, “List two things that happened to you mostly because you made a choice.” It’s a good opportunity to reflect on choices made-both in math and in life.
The game is noisy, so consider playing it at the end of the day.
Teach probability lessons before playing the game.