Secret Code 13+4 is a robust math game carefully concealed behind an attractive theme of secret agents breaking into a museum to steal the mask of Amun Re. Make no mistake, however, to be successful here players will have to use some serious math. The game is built around the mechanism of reaching target numbers given a pool of starting numbers – in this case, starting numbers from rolled dice – manipulated by any desired mathematical operations. As with word games, where players are scrolling through their mental vocabulary lists to find words that match given letters, in Secret Code 13+4 players are playing with numbers in their mind trying to find combinations to hit a given target.
This mechanism has been used in other games, including the excellent Numbers League: Adventures in Addiplication, with great results. Secret Code 13+4, however, offers a more distilled version of the mechanism. The trade-off is a less engaging theme for this game. Young players love the created super heroes and villains of Numbers League, and they can be used to inspire additional writing and story telling experiences. In Secret Code 13+4, though, players can get started playing in under 30 seconds. The rules are simple; see that laser wall with a number? Roll these dice and then use one or more of the resulting numbers and any mathematical operation you can define to hit the target. Done...now go do math. Both games deliver a huge return in mathematical thinking, this one just does it with much less up-front investment for learning and setup and a 15 minute play time.
The other way that Secret Code 13+4 shines is in alignment to the new expression of mathematical thinking found in the Common Core Standards for Math. The first standard in the Math Practice domain involves students making sense of problems and preserving in finding a solution. As the standards explain, students will need to engage in certain practices to be successful:
"They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary."
Standards within the Math Content domain also apply here. Players in Secret Code 13+4 will need to solve problems involving addition and subtraction (2.OA.A.1) as well as multiplication and division (3.OA.A.1). Sometimes a single string of code to reach a number might involve all four operations (4.OA.A.1) or may need to include parentheses to segregate operations within the expression (5.OA.A.1). Serious math...