The classic game of Mastermind is great to play by yourself,  or against an opponent.  It is also great to play as a group.  Incorporating the game of Mastermind into your class or meetings can be rather beneficial.

I use Mastermind in my classes often as a fun way to introduce logical thinking and problem solving but also collaboration.

Mastermind can be used in many different situations:

  • Fun game to fill in time at the end of term or semester
  • Quick game at the beginning of class to wake them up
  • Good way to introduce logical thinking/ problem solving/ collaboration
  • Quick competition,  divide the class into teams that will compete
  • etc

The typical approach is to bring up a game of Mastermind on the screen and run the participants through a few different games.  You’ll probably find that some people have played the game before but most have not so you’ll need to run through the rules quickly with them (you can find a nice description on the website).

You run the session,  controlling the board (or get a participant to take over that role).  Ask for people to suggest which pegs to place.  Once they are all in place,  get them to discuss that attempt before hitting ‘Accept’.  Get them to discuss if the colours they have picked may need changing or it the pegs need to be shuffled around.  You may need to prompt the participants slightly but they will soon get the hang of using the information given in the previous attempts to craft their current attempt.

You can tie Mastermind into many topics.  For instance you can discuss the approaches they used for problem solving or you can talk about how the contributions of the whole class led to their cracking the code.  You can talk about how at first they had no information but with each successive attempt they got more information that led them to the answer. And so on.

There are several Mastermind implementations out there on the web but the one I prefer is this one:

It has several advantages such as:

  • A clean and bright interface which works well on smartboards and projectors with dimming bulbs
  • A strategy guide to help you get the hang of it
  • An optional timer if you want to make sure the activity is kept short
  • A handy reminder on what the black and white pegs represent
  • The option to set your own codes if you want the class to play as teams
  • An easy ability to reorganise the pegs for an attempt once they have been placed

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