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MathBait™ Multiplication

The Bone Collector

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In this Go Fish style game, students use Napier's Bones as cards and attempt to gain a full set through questioning. Students cannot simply ask for a "3" and instead must question other players using multiples. But be careful! Asking for a bone with "12" might get you a 3-bone, or you could end up with a card you weren't looking for!


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Primary Topic

Playing with Napier's Bones







This activity is great for students new to multiplication or students practicing fluency.

Similar to Go Fish, place students in small groups and combine a half-set of bones (one for each digit) for each student. Place the bones upside down in the middle of the table and allow each student to grab 9 (or 10 if using the 0 bone).

The goal of the game is to gather a full set of bones (1-9 or 0-9). Players take turns selecting another player and asking about their hand. They cannot ask about the digit on the top of the bone (this also eliminates the first row).

On a player's turn, they first select a discard rod from their hand and lay it face down on the table. Next, they pick a player to converse with and ask the player a single yes/no question about their hand. The player must answer truthfully.

Suppose the game is played with four players, A, B, C, and D. Player A is in need of an 8-rod to complete their hand. On their turn, Player A lays out their discard rod and selects a player to converse with. They may select any player (B, C, or D). Player A asks Player C, "do you have any 16's?". If Player C has any bone with a 16, they must answer yes and give Player A their bone and pick up Player A's discard bone. If Player C doesn't possess any rod containing a 16, they answer no. Player A returns their discard bone to their hand and play passes to the next player.

Note that if Player C has more than one bone containing a 16, they may choose which bone to provide to Player A. This means, although Player A was in search of an 8-rod, by asking for a 16, they could receive a 4-rod instead.

The first player to have a full hand wins.

The Bone Collector requires students to look for and be familiar with multiples. If asking for a 16, students must either know, or find, that 16 is a multiple of 2, 4, and 8. The more students play, the more strategies they will develop. For instance, selecting a larger multiple can often narrow things down. In addition, students must work to become fluent as they do not have the bone they are looking for. If a player is in search of a 7-rod, they must recall the multiples of 7 to know what to ask for.

The material on this page is copyrighted by MathBait™. Please use and enjoy it! MathBait™ provides a temporary license for Non-Commercial purposes. You are not permitted to copy, distribute, sell, or make derivative work without written permission from MathBait™. 

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