Age level: Upper Elementary, Middle School
Description: This cleverly designed strategy game is easy to learn and fast to play. One of my favorite things about Last Mouse Lost is that it consists of one playing surface. Players take turns choosing rows in which to push mice down. A player can push down one or more of the mice in a given row. Players continue to do this with the goal of making their opponent press the last mouse. While the concept is simple, winning the game requires strategy.
Skills & Modifications: There are few modifications necessary for this game. Typically, the only modification I make is to actually start with the end of the game. For example, I’ll set up a game where there are only two to three remaining turns possible. I will then remind the learner of their goal to make me be the last one to push a mouse down. This way, there is not an endless amount of turns possible and you can teach how to think ahead in small steps.
Peer Play – This is a two player game that requires each player to attend to the turn of their opponent. That aspect of it makes it a great game for peer play, because the game is not as fun or interesting if you do not attend to the other player.
Strategy – I am frequently concerned about executive functioning skills for my students. Games that teach strategy are great in helping develop these skills in motivating ways. However, it can be challenging to find games that involve strategy for young learners. This is an excellent choice because it’s quite simple to set up scenarios to practice strategy, such as the scenario pictured below. PICTURE WITH CAPTION
Accepting Losing a Game – I love this game for teaching learners to accept losing. Because you can quickly replay the game without having to set up the board again, it allows for a fast transition to a new game without dwelling on a loss.
Pros: When the game ends, you can just flip over the playing surface and start a new game. I love that the game is fast, easy to carry around, and allows for me to teach strategy to learners who are just beginning to understand the concept of thinking ahead and planning moves. It’s also an excellent choice for a travel game as it doesn’t require any additional parts that can be dropped or lost during travel. I also appreciate that there is a modification for advanced play so that learners who are highly motivated by the game can play at a higher level once they’ve mastered the game.
Cons: If you have a learner who is highly motivated by interesting tactiles, it may be challenging to get them to interact with this game appropriately. However, you can also use that motivation as a way to teach them the skills involved with the game. For some learners, I allowed “free play” where they could push the mice down as they wished. Once free play was over though, they had to play the game as directed.
Ideas for extending the lesson: With one learner, we played this game in a slightly different way. I played against her mother, but the learner was my “coach.” She had to tell me what I should do and why. It was a great exercise in having her think aloud about what to do and explain her adjustments after seeing the opponent’s turn.
**Last Mouse Lost was provided to me for free by the company FoxMind to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.