Non-Portuguese parents have an excellent reason to be jealous: Portuguese grade schoolers recently competed in the 11th Annual Portuguese Tournament of Mathematical Games. This big event, put on by Ludus, begins in regional schools for kids ages 7 to 17. They compete in a wide variety of combinatorial games, then the winners advance to the final rounds as shown in the link above.
The final tournaments were held on March 6 of this year in Vila Real in northern Portugal. 1400 students played one of 6 games (I assume they're combinatorial, but I admit I'm not familiar with them all).
I picked up a copy of Traffic Lights in Lisbon at CGTC1, though I'm not very good at it yet. It's definitely a nicely-balanced impartial game with easy-to-explain rules. (I also got to meet João Neto there, without realizing that he's the author of the Trabsact Sagme Diaries. (Those first two words in the name are anagrams for "abstract" and "game".)
One excellent aspect of the tournaments is that Ludus strives to make them as accessible as possible for all kids. For example, the pieces for Traffic Lights have different shapes for each color. This allows blind students to play by feeling the pieces without having to distinguish the colors!
In eighth grade I took an amazing class in mathematical games. We played a bunch of Nim, Krypto, and Equations. I wish we had fun tournaments like this to encourage abstract thought outside of the standard curriculum-box. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening in the US on a large scale anytime soon.
1 month ago