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With four kids, it seems like every time we eat out at a restaurant, one of them inevitably draws a Tic-Tac-Toe board to challenge their dad or me. While most children in the United States are familiar with this classic game, they may not know that variations of the three-in-a-row game are played all over the world.
Shisima · A Cool Math Game that’s Multicultural, Too!
I recently learned several of those games from the book, Math Games and Activities From Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky. I highly recommend this book! Kids learn not only all different types of cool math games and puzzles but a great deal about other countries and cultures, too.
What is Shisima?
The two-player game I’m sharing today, Shisima, comes from Kenya, a country in East Africa. The Kenyan word Shisima means body of water. So, the middle of the board is the water. And the game pieces are called imbalavali which means water insects.
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 imbalavali 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 an octagonal board for my kids out of cardboard so it’s more durable for repeat gameplay.
First, Download the Shisima Game Board:
You can draw your own Shisima game board using my photos for reference. But, I’ve made it even easier for you with a free math game printable. Simply download the Shisima printable below. Then, print the octagonal game board of your choice (one is blank in case your kids want to practice using a ruler to draw the straight lines themselves).
How to Make Your Shisima Game Board:
Once you’ve printed your Shisima game printable, have your child use a ruler to draw straight lines between opposite corners of the octagon shape.
Next, have them color the empty space in the center of the board blue since it is the water source.
Now, if you’re using the paper alone as the Shisima game board, have the kids color the negative space around the octagon green like grass. But, if you’re mounting your Shisima board on cardboard, have them cut the octagonal board and water shape out and glue them onto a piece of cardboard.
Finally, you’ll need to gather six markers (three of each color) to use as your imbalavali. Kenyan children often use stones, but you can use math counters, coins, buttons, or even LEGO bricks. Just make sure three are one color and the other three are a different color. (Psst… these bug-shaped Critter Counters would be adorable, wouldn’t they?)
How to Play Your Shisima Game:
Object of the Game: To position all of your 3 imbalavali/water bugs in a row with one being in the center shisima/water.
How to Play Shisima: First, each player places one imbalavali/water bug on each of three side-by-side points on the outside of the octagon-shaped board. The players’ imbalavali should be on opposite edges of the octagon board.
Now, Player 1 (youngest player goes first) moves one of their imbalavali/water bugs along a straight line to any adjacent vacant intersection (or empty corner; the center space counts as an intersection).
Then, Player 2 moves one of their imbalavali/water bugs along a line to any adjacent vacant intersection. But, they may not jump or replace any other imbalavali/water bug.
Play continues with players taking turns moving their imbalavali/water bugs until one player positions all of their imbalavali/water bugs in a row with one being in the center shisima/water.
My kids loved playing this cool math game, especially my oldest (who is six years old). But older kids enjoy the two-player abstract strategy game, too. For example, they can decide whether or not to move to the shisima on the first move. Or, they can strategize how one might trap the other player so it’s impossible for them to block a win.
You can also use your Shisima Game board to discuss the shape of an octagon and its properties (number of edges and points) as well as other places we see octagonal shapes in real life. (For a fun shape game, try this shape scavenger hunt). Most importantly, though, is that the kids have fun!
Full Shisima Math Game Instructions:
Shisima Math Game
To Prepare Shisima Game Board:
- Print Shisima Game Printable on cardstock.
- If using complete Shisima Game Printable, color center circular shape blue (for water) and space around octagon shape green (for grass). Laminate, if desired.
- If using blank Shisima Game Printable, use ruler and pencil to draw straight lines between opposite corners of the octagon shape.
- Use crayons to color circular shape blue (for water).
- Use scissors to cut out water shape and octagon shape (without cutting intersecting lines in center).
- Use glue stick to glue octagon-shaped game board onto center of a piece of cardboard. Then, glue water shape onto center of game board where lines intersect.
To Play Shisima Game:
- Each player places one imbalavali/water bug on each of three side-by-side points on the outside of the octagon-shaped board. Players' imbalavali should be on opposite edges of the octagon board.
- Player 1 (youngest player goes first) moves one of their imbalavali/water bugs along a straight line to any adjacent vacant intersection (center shisima/water counts as an intersection).
- Player 2 moves one of their imbalavali/water bugs along a line to any adjacent vacant intersection. But, they may not jump or replace any other imbalavali/water bug.
- Play continues with players taking turns moving their imbalavali/water bugs until one player positions all of their imbalavali/water bugs in a row, with one being in the center shisima/water, and wins the game.
More Cool Maths Games on Amazon:
Don’t have the time to make your own Shisima game? No worries! I’ve gathered up some cool math games you can purchase right on Amazon. 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
And, find more in B-Inspired Mama’s Cool Math Games & Goodies for Kids Shop!
Like This Cool Math Game? Then Save It & Share It!
Don’t forget to save this Shisima game resource to come back to later. And share it with friends! Simply click on the buttons at the top or bottom of this post, or click here: Share on Facebook | Tweet It | Pin It | Email to a Friend
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.
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