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Race to 20

One of my most favorite activities to use with groups is Race to 20. I have no idea if that is the real name of the game, or when or where I first ran across it. However, what I do know after using it for a really long time and with lots of groups of kiddos and grownups, is that it has an appeal that is pretty much about impossible to resist. I am pretty sure, like about 100%, it belongs to the family of NIM games.

Here’s the set up:

  • You need a partner and you need 20 counters. (unifix cubes, two-color counters, pebbles, square tiles, etc.)
  • Set the counters in a pile in the middle of the table


  • The object of the game is to be the person who takes the last counter from the pile
  • Each person may remove one or two counters from the pile on each turn


  • So, Player 1 takes one or two counters
  • Then, Player 2 takes one or two counters


  • And, Player 1 takes his/her turn
  • Then, Player 2 takes one or two counters


  • And so on, until all the counters have been taken
  • The person who took the last counter wins that round
  • Play again

The goal is to figure out the strategy so that you can win every time.

Give it a try.

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