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Absolute Zero Review by Lisa McKinney

Games by Absolute Zero

We are a game family. We have game night every single week, and we use games in our homeschool. The one subject area in which I would like to have more games is math. I do not feel there are enough fun math games out there, especially for older children and adults. Because of this, I was thrilled to have the chance to review the card game Absolute Zero by Games by Absolute Zero. This game is a simple card game but comes with three different ways to play! The set comes with a deck of cards with two information cards inside that provide the information and rules for playing three different ways with the same deck of cards. The deck is $15.95 and contains everything you need for gameplay.

The primary game is Absolute Zero. In this game, you will be playing with 2-4 players, and the rules are simple--gather enough positive and negative integer cards to create absolute zero in your hand! The first person to collect the cards needed to make the value of zero wins! The directions state that you can deal out 3-5 cards per person. Half the cards are red (negative integers), and half are black (positive integers). Your goal is to combine the positive and negative cards in your hand to cancel each other out, leaving you with the value of zero. Each turn, you will draw a card--either from the discard pile or the draw deck. Your turn ends by discarding a card from your hand. Once you have zeroed out, you show your cards to the other players. The first person to zero out wins. To play the game as designed, the players need to know the properties of negative integers and know how to add and subtract them. Students in grade 5+ would enjoy this; younger children might not have the necessary negative interger knowledge.

Because both of my boys have learned negative numbers, I decided they would both play with me. My oldest is fourteen, and in algebra, and my ten-year-old is in pre-algebra. I found they were both the ideal age for this game. We typically played three rounds each time. The first time we dealt out three cards, and the second round, we dealt out four cards. After trying both ways, we decided having four cards to start was a better way to play, and we have continued to use four-card hands ever since. It was nice just to pick up a deck and play it with little prep or complicated directions. We did decide that there should be one clarification to the rules and one change to the rules. The first thing we wished it clarified is when the winner was supposed to show their cards. A turn ended with a discard, so we were not sure if you had to have Absolute Zero after your discarded or not. We made the decision that you had to be able to discard to have Absolute Zero. One change that we made as a new "house" rule was that you could dig for cards in the discard pile. This is because all too often, the cards we wanted were buried under two or three cards. So, we created our house rule and played it that way.

My youngest and I also tried one of the other included games. In this two-player game, you deal half the deck to each person. Each person plays by flipping over the top two cards in their hand. They then calculate the difference between the cards. Whoever has the greater distance gets to claim all the cards--yours and the other persons. You keep going until all cards have been played. Then you simply add up the cards you won and whoever has the greatest number wins the hand. My youngest declared this game to be better than the other. I think I agree that it is easier to play and does go faster. There is an option to play this game with only the black cards--the positive integers--for grades K-5. The third version available for the game works on multiplying (or adding) with the integers. It works on rapid recognition and quick math skills as you race to be the first to calculate the answer when you each flip your top cards over. If you get it right first, you keep the cards. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins. Again, there is a note to use only black, positive-integer cards for K-5. It is hard for them to play with me on this since I have the sums and products memorized; however, it is a good one for them to play together since they are still working on the math facts' mastery and speed.

I like this set of games. It works on mental math, speed, and mastery; however, it is a fun way to practice! These are so much more fun than generic flashcards! Of the three games, I think we enjoyed the game of finding the difference the best! I know that we will be able to continue to pull these out for our math game Fridays. I am happy to have one which works on current math skills in a way they enjoy. I appreciate that it gives ways for younger children who have not learned negative numbers to be still able to play two of the games. Additionally, I like that since it is just a card deck, it does not take up room in my game closet.

Suppose you are looking for a fun way to help improve math fact memorization, work on positive and negative integers, and achieve speed and mastery. In that case, I highly recommend the Absolute Zero card game created by Games by Absolute Zero!

-Product Review by Lisa McKinney, The Old SchoolhouseMagazine, LLC, January 2021