You Can’t Eat Money: A Game for Kids

Yesterday I played a game with the kids I work with, where they were given a set of 10 cards each and had to trade them among each other to accumulate as much “wealth” as possible. The cards were different colors: orange, green, yellow, white, brown, and blue. At the start of the game, each kid had a set of 10 different ratios of colors, and I told them that orange = gold and green = cash, and the other colors represented other resources, to be named later. I reminded them that the goal of the game was to collect as much wealth as possible.

We all traded cards for about ten minutes, with me acting as kind of a “let’s make a deal” player, meaning I would make kids outrageous offers (20 green cards for 1 of your white cards?) to see if they would willingly empty their hand of other colors in the quest for orange and green. Not surprisingly, some kids took the bait while others were sure that such a good offer was in fact too good to be true.

After the trading was over, we tallied points. They got 1 point for every orange (gold) card, 1/2 point for every green (cash) card—since cash is technically worthless it only counted half—and 1 point for every blue or brown card (water and earth) in their hand, but only if they had at least 1 white (air) and 1 yellow (sun) card, along with at least 1 blue and brown; it doesn’t matter how much gold or cash you have if you don’t have air, sun, water, or soil.

Of course, the kids who traded me their air for 20 greens had the most cash, but couldn’t use it since they couldn’t breathe. The winner of the game actually had no cash at all but had 1 of every color and then 15 brown cards (her favorite color). After explaining what the cards represented, the kids who had traded away all their water felt foolish, but expressed the appropriate response: Well had I known it was water I would never have traded it!

But then I was the one who felt foolish. Aren’t I trading away my water, knowing full well from the outset what that means?

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