Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary
Description: Clumsy Thief is a great game created by a mother to help her son with his addition skills. It’s fast-paced, offers lots of practice in addition skills, and (for older learners) also provides a high-interest activity for low-level skills. Furthermore, the game has a sense of humor that is especially great for kids who find math aversive. The illustrations of the clumsy thieves are funny, and many of my students love “putting the thieves in jail.”
Gameplay is simple, as you can see in the short video below.
Skills & Modifications: One of the things that I love about this game is that it is easy to modify to meet the unique needs of your particular learners. The game can sometimes be quite long, so an easy modification is to set a timer, then the player with the most money when the timer rings is the winner.
Another modification for learners who are still struggling with basic addition, you can play the game with only increments of 10 (removing the 15, 25, 35, and so on…) until those skills are solid. Then you can reintroduce the other cards.
There are also some modifications you can make to increase the difficulty level of the game. The first of these modifications utilizes the great design of the box. Each player is given a pawn. If the player makes an error in addition, their pawn “goes to jail” and they are not able to play cards for the remainder of that round. Once all other players are out of moves, pawns are released from jail and all players start the next round of play.
For the second modification to increase the difficulty level, I introduced the use of a spinner with the other dollar amounts written on it. When played as designed, players are always trying to combine two cards to add up to $100. In this modification, the dealer spins the spinner at the end of a round, and all players have the chance to combine two cards that add up to the new dollar amount (as pictured below.)
Addition – At its heart, this game is offers a ton of practice in basic addition skills. It bills itself as a money game, but I found it wasn’t as helpful with practicing money skills since most of my students struggle with money once the decimal is introduced. The game is still valuable though for its fantastic design and focus on addition.
Scanning – This game is a great way to practice higher order scanning skills, as it requires players to scan their own cards and an ever-changing collection of cards in play on the table. For some learners, I modified the game and introduced it as a turn-taking game until they mastered the level of scanning required.
Playing with Speed – Clumsy Thief really is a fast-paced, fun, free-for-all. Players must attend and play their cards quickly, or they may miss an opportunity to use a card.
Pros: The design of the game is great. I love the humor (such as the thief card pictured below.) I have played this with learners of a wide range of ages and skill levels.
Cons: You can definitely play this game with two players, but it’s vastly more entertaining when played with three or more. If you’re working with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities, it may be difficult to match up more than two players who enjoy the same level of play.
Cost: $14.99 You should invest in this game if: you are a math teacher, you have a learner working on addition skills, or you are seeking games that can be played by students of multiple skill levels.
Clumsy Thief was provided to me for free by the company Melon Rind to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.