A little bit of Aggression is one of the few essential games for the elementary school classroom. It could be the only thing done in grade 2 or 3 math for a whole year and my prediction would be that the students would end up in a superior place to most existing curricula. It is essential because it:

  1. gives students practice with addition / subtraction.
  2. can be customized to work with numbers 1-10 or 1-100.
  3. is strategically deep.
  4. offers connections to world history, contemporary events and geography.

Let’s see how to play…


Choose a map (many are provided in a pdf at the end of this slide presentation.)

Choose a starting number of armies. If this is your first week playing, limit the armies to a size of 10.

Black goes first. This is not necessarily an advantage.

Here, Rome puts three armies in one province of Sicily. That leaves them with seven armies in reserve.

Carthage deploys 4.
Players take turn deploying. In this first half of the game everything is peaceful. There is no attacking.
Players cannot deploy to a province that already has troops.
The first phase of the game continues until both players are out of armies or there are no empty provinces. Rome has run out of armies, but Carthage can keep on deploying as often as they wish.
Carthage adds a single army. Rome has no more armies so Rome must PASS. Carthage can deploy again.
Carthage adds another single army. Rome passes and Carthage can deploy again.
The first half of the game is complete. This happens when both players have deployed all their armies OR no empty provinces are left.

It is now time to attack. Who attacks first? The player who passed first. Rome passed first in this game, so Rome begins the attack.


Rome decides to attack Carthage in the centre.

Add up all of Rome’s armies that share a boarder with the attacked province.


5+3+2 > 4 so the attack is successful. If it were equal or less the attack would be unsuccessful.

Remove or cross out the defeated Carthaginian armies.

It is now the Carthaginian’s time to attack. Attacks alternate until both players pass.


Carthage attacks three Roman armies.

The Carthaginian attack succeeded so Rome lost her 3 armies.

It is Rome’s turn.


The five Roman armies in the South of Sicily attack North.

5 > 2 so this attack will succeed.


It is the Carthaginian’s time to attack.

They attack the two Roman armies garrisoned in the North.
Rome passes. It can make no more attacks. If Carthage had more attacks it could make them all, but in this case Carthage also has no further attacks.

The winner is the group with the most provinces. Carthage has 3. Rome has 1. Carthage wins.

In the case of a tie – the player with the most armies wins.


A little bit of Aggression is based on Eric Solomon’s 1973 game “Aggression.”

Download free game board maps and instructions here.

A little bit of Aggression

(inspired by Eric Solomon’s 1973 game Aggression)

This game is essential for the elementary school classroom learning addition and subtraction. It’s one of MathPickle’s top recommendations because it allows the teacher to deflect advanced students into problem-solving which allows the teacher to focus on helping struggling students.

You can see the high engagement even with middle school students in Belfast Northern Ireland. If the game can hold the interest of these students it is guaranteed to hold the interest of even the most precocious grade 2 student 😉

Standards for Mathematical Practice

MathPickle puzzle and game designs engage a wide spectrum of student abilities while targeting the following Standards for Mathematical Practice:

MP1 Toughen up!

Students develop grit and resiliency in the face of nasty, thorny problems. It is the most sought after skill for our students.

MP2 Think abstractly!

Students take problems and reformat them mathematically. This is helpful because mathematics lets them use powerful operations like addition.

MP3 Work together!

Students discuss their strategies to collaboratively solve a problem and identify missteps in a failed solution. MathPickle recommends pairing up students for all its puzzles.

MP4 Model reality!

Students create a model that mimics the real world. Discoveries made by manipulating the model often hint at something in the real world.

MP5 Use the right tools!

Students should use the right tools: 0-99 wall charts, graph paper, mathigon.org. etc.

MP6 Be precise!

Students learn to communicate using precise terminology. MathPickle encourages students not only to use the precise terms of others, but to invent and rigorously define their own terms.

MP7 Be observant!

Students learn to identify patterns. This is one of the things that the human brain does very well. We sometimes even identify patterns that don't really exist 😉

MP8 Be lazy!?!

Students learn to seek for shortcuts. Why would you want to add the numbers one through a hundred if you can find an easier way to do it?


Please use MathPickle in your classrooms. If you have improvements to make, please contact me. I'll give you credit and kudos 😉 For a free poster of MathPickle's ideas on elementary math education go here.

Gordon Hamilton

(MMath, PhD)