WhotChilli is a collection of family card games designed to promote numeracy to children in fun and engaging ways. It consists of six sets of six numbered cards, a 12-sided dice, and instructions in numerous languages. The whole box is the size of a deck of playing cards, so it’s pleasingly portable for travelling or keeping in a bag as an emergency distraction!
I tested out three games with help from Joanna (age 9) and Charlotte (age 7). I was interested to see what level of numeracy was required of them. Joanna is about average for her age in her maths abilities, and has a good memory for her tables. Charlotte, who we think has FASD, really struggles with maths. She is easily overwhelmed and frightened by the idea of having to work out answers. I was going to have to sell this one to her with diplomatic skills of the highest order. I showed her the funny pictures on the cards and hoped for the best. It worked.
We started with the game Salsa, in which you each make your own ‘recipe’ using the cards. The object of the game is to work out another player’s choice of cards and what order they have placed them in. You score 5 points for the right card in the right place, and 1 point for the right card in the wrong place. Every round you have to use the score from the previous round to deduce what might be right. You agree before the game how many cards (between 3 and 6) you’ll use.
This game proved a bit too tricky for us, so we tweaked the rules a bit, pointing out which cards were right. It still worked well as a game of reasoning, but removed the scoring element. Maybe we can add that back in once we’ve got used to the concepts.
Next we played Lookin’ Hot. Everyone starts with a set of cards up to one number less than the number of players, so for our group of three players we each used cards 1 and 2. The first player rolls the dice, then chooses which card to put face-down in the middle, then the others put their chosen cards down too. If the first player is the only one to choose that number, they can multiply it by the number on the dice. If someone else has picked the same card, they multiply the card number by the dice number, but subtract the result from their score instead.
Joanna coped OK with the multiplying (she loves her tables), and Charlotte, as predicted, needed help. But the constant adding and subtracting two-digit numbers using mental arithmetic was too much for both of them, so we decided only to add on positive scores and skip the subtraction. We also decided to add in the number three card, because we found playing with two choices was a bit limiting. This made it more likely that we would choose different cards. Once we’d made those adjustments, we were away. We could also have whipped out pens and paper to carry on adding and subtracting according to the instructions, but our version felt more inclusive for Charlotte.
Finally we played Chilly Chilli. In this game all the players get a set of the six different cards, lay them out face down in front of them in the order of their choice, and memorise which is which. You then take it in turns to swap two of your cards for two of anyone else’s. The object is to get rid of your hot chillies and gaining lots of cool ones. This was much more of an even playing field, as Charlotte has a great memory for these sorts of games. We all enjoyed this game the most of the three.
WhotChilli: the verdict
WhotChilli would make a good gift for a more able young mathematician (or one with slightly more patience as they improve). It says it’s suitable for ages 6+, but that doesn’t apply equally to all the games. I’d recommend it for children 8 and up.
The cards themselves are fun, and if left to their own devices my girls would happily invent a few other games to supplement the ‘official’ ones. The pack costs £9.99 and is available from Amazon.