Disclosure: This “Shisima — A Cool Maths Game from Kenya” blog post, contributed by Bethany of MathGeekMama.com, contains affiliate links; as an affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Please read my full disclosure policy for more information.
With four kids, it seems like every time we eat out at a restaurant, one of them inevitably decides to draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board to challenge their dad or me. And while most children in the United States are familiar with this classic three-in-a-row game, what they may not know is that variations of the “three-in-a-row” concept are played all over the world.
A Cool Maths Game that’s Multicultural, too!
I recently learned several from the book, Math Games and Activities From Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky. I highly recommend this book, as kids learn not only all different types of math games and puzzles, but a great deal about other countries and cultures, too!
Shisima — A Math Game from Kenya
The math game I am sharing today comes from Kenya, a country in East Africa. The game is called “Shisima” (meaning “body of water”) because the center of the game board is the “water.” And the game pieces are called the “impalavali” (meaning “water bugs”).
“Water bugs” move very quickly making it hard to keep track of where they are; likewise, Shisima players move their pieces so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Once you learn the rules and practice, maybe you will be able to move your impalavali as fast as the kids in Kenya!
Often, kids in Kenya will simply draw a game board (the shape of an octagon) in the dirt to play and use rocks or bottle caps as their game pieces. But, I decided to make a Shisima Game board for my kids that will be more durable for repeat gameplay. You can make your own Shisima Game, too! All you need is a home printer, some crayons, a piece of cardboard, and some glue.
How to Make a Shisima Game:
You can draw your own Shisima Game board using the photos for reference but I’ve made it even easier for you and your kids to make your own Shisima Game with a free printable. Simply download the printable (by subscribing below), then print the game board of your choice (one is blank in case your kids want to practice using a ruler to draw the lines themselves).
After you’ve downloaded the game printable, check out the DIY directions below to prepare and play the game.
My kids enjoyed playing this fun math game, especially my oldest (who is six years old). But older kids might enjoy the strategy of this math game, too (like whether or not it’s a good idea to move to the shisima on the first move, or how one might trap the other player so that it’s impossible for them to block a win).
You can also use the Shisima Game board to discuss an octagon and its properties (number of edges and points) and other places we see the octagonal shape used in real life (for another fun shape game, try this shape scavenger hunt). Most importantly, however, is that you have fun!
How to Make and Play Your Own Shisima Game:
Shisima Math Game
- Shisima Game Printable (printed on white copy paper or cardstock)
- pencil (optional)
- washable school glue stick
- 1 laminating sheets (optional)
- 6 math counters (3 of each color; or other tokens of 2 different colors)
Prepare the Shisima Game Board
- If using the blank Shisima Game board printable, use a ruler and a pencil to draw connecting lines between opposite points of the octagon-shaped game board.
- Use crayons to color the water shape on the printable blue and, if desired, the game board green (or another contrasting color).
- Use scissors to cut out the water shape and the outer octagon shape of the game board (without cutting the intersecting lines in the center).
- Use a glue stick to glue the game board onto the center of a piece of cardstock and then the water shape onto the center of the game board (where the lines intersect).
- If desired, use a laminator and lamination sheet to laminate your completed Shisima Game board.
Play the Shisima Game
- Each player places one "imbalavali/water bug" (token) on each of three side-by-side points on the outside of the octagon-shaped board so that each players "imbalavalis/water bugs" are positioned directly across from one another on the board.
- With youngest going first, Player 1 moves a single "imbalavali/water bug" of their own color along a line to any adjacent vacant intersection (the center "shisima/water" counts as an intersection).
- Player 2 then moves a single "imbalavali/water bug" of their own color along a line to any adjacent vacant intersection (without jumping or replacing any other "imbalavali/water bug").
- Play continues with players taking turns until one player positions their "imbalavalis/water bugs" in a row (with one being in the center "shisima/water") and wins the game.
Cool Maths Games on Amazon:
Don’t have the time to make your own math games? No worries! I’ve gathered up some fun math games you can purchase right on Amazon. Let’s check ’em out…
Elevate Prep Target Math Game | A Teacher-Recommended, Fast-Paced Mental Math GameMath Games Lab for Kids: 24 Fun, Hands-On Activities for Learning with Shapes, Puzzles, and GamesLearning Resources Math Island Addition & Subtraction GameI Can Be a Math Magician: Fun STEM Activities for KidsWooden Montessori Multiplication Board GameBoom Goes The Dynamite Memory Card GameLearning Resources MathLink Cubes Early Math Activity SetThe Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul ErdosProof! Math Game – The Fast Paced Game of Mental Math MagicIt’s a Numbers Game! BasketballEducational Insights Multiplication Slam24 GAME: Single DigitsDo You Even Know Math? The Ultimate Mental Math GameLearning Resources Pop For Addition & Subtraction Math GameMath Art and Drawing Games for KidsPrime ClimbMath for Love Tiny Polka DotCounting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems
Find more in B-Inspired Mama’s Cool Math Games & Goodies for Kids Shop!
Like These Maths Games? Share Them!
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More Cool Math Game Ideas from Math Geek Mama:
Bethany is the mom behind the blog, MathGeekMama.com, a website dedicated to helping parents and educators teach math in a way that is fun and engaging, while building a strong conceptual understanding of mathematics. When she’s not playing with numbers, she’s exploring with her four little ones, drinking way too much coffee, or soaking up the chaos of everyday life.
More Learning Games & Activities from B-Inspired Mama:
- Make Math Fun with The Weekly Kids Co-Op
- 25 Rockin’ Homeschool Preschool Resources
- 6 Fun Games from The Kids Co-Op
- Fun Number Games from The Kids Co-Op
Mama Tita says
I am Kenyan but seeing this for the first time and absolutely love it. We played Naughts and Crosses growing up…Swahili for shisima is Kisima (water well) thanks for sharing. Will definitely share it with my kids.
Krissy of B-Inspired Mama says
Oh neat! Thanks for sharing the meaning. Hope your kids like it!