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Addition, Subtraction

plus and minus signs on a seesaw
No. of Players: 1+
Type of Game: written or spoken
What you need: pen & paper or nothing


To make a chain of words by adding or subtracting letters.

How to play

Players select a four-letter word at random. Randomness can be approximated by opening a book to a random page and selecting the first four-letter word encountered there starting from the top left-hand corner. This word is either spoken or written down on a piece of paper shared by all players. The first player adds a letter to this word to make a new word. The second player then subtracts a letter from this new word to make yet another new word. The next player adds a letter and so on, alternating adding and subtracting letters round the players. No word can be repeated. A player who cannot make a new word drops out of the game. The last player to have successfully made a new word is the winner. Alternatively, the first player can choose to subtract a letter so that the second player must add a letter, and so on. Another game variation gives players a choice to either add or subtract letters during each turn. Players can also agree to work independently to see who can make the longest chain of words.


Alina and Bruce agree that they will alternate adding and subtracting letters to create a chain of new words. They randomly select CARE from a book, write this down and then flip a coin to see who gets to go first. Bruce wins the flip and adds the letter T to make CARET. Here is the chain of words they made:


After seven rounds, Alina wins the game with BARE since neither player can make another word that has not already been made.

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