Love at first smite

Paul Warnes describes a new game that is proving a hit with pupils in Cornwall

What would you think if you heard the cry of "bring me my smiter!" echoing along the corridors of a school? That corporal punishment had been reintroduced? That a play was being rehearsed? Possibly, but if this was a Cornish primary school then the likelihood is that you would have heard the sounds of pupils enthusiastically playing a new game called smite.

Combining the skill and dexterity of boules with the cunning and strategic thinking of croquet, smite is based on a number of traditional games from northern Europe. It was introduced into the UK last summer by Roger and Sue Daniel, two former primary teachers based in the village of St Neot in Cornwall. From there they began popularising the game in neighbouring communities.

Originally designed as a social activity to be used by families in the garden or on the beach, smite's potential for use in schools was quickly recognised. There are already at least four primary schools using the game and more visits and demonstrations are planned.

Smite is an easy game to play but a difficult one to master. It needs a playing area of approximately 6m by 2m and can be played on a variety of surfaces - grass, sand, carpet, or the mats used by schools for PE. This means it can be played indoors or outside, depending on the weather.

Ten numbered wooden pins are placed in a tight triangle three paces away from the throwing line. Players take it in turns to throw the smiting log at the pins with a point scored for each pin knocked down. The pins are replaced where they land and in this way the game spreads out. Once the pins are spread slightly the players can then choose to try to knock just one pin down - this scores the number on the pin instead. The winner is the player or team that scores exactly 50 first, which requires a carefully thought-out finishing strategy.

Teachers who have employed smite in their schools have identified ways in which it can enrich both maths and PE. Pupils can gain valuable practice in arithmetic by adding and calculating running totals up to the target number. They need to work out combinations of numbers for a successful finish and be able to adapt those as scores change. If played in pairs, the game requires discussion on alternative ways to finish, involving repeatedly subtracting to find target numbers.

The use of smite in PE can focus on the development of strategy, teamwork and handeye co-ordination. More a game of skill than speed or strength, it allows children with disabilities to compete on an equal basis. It can also be adapted to the needs of younger children by shortening the pitch and lowering the target number.

Schools in Cornwall already playing smite have used it in a variety of ways. As well as using the game with groups in PE sessions, it has proved to be a popular break and lunchtime activity. It has also been added to the list of golden time options given to pupils. It is further anticipated that smite would be the perfect game to take along on school journeys and to residential activity centres.

It is certainly a game that is growing in popularity very quickly as word of its potential spreads. Sets have been ordered by youth clubs, leisure centres, Women's Institutes, Young Farmers Clubs, Girls' Brigade and the prison service. According to Roger Daniel, one couple (grandparents themselves) complained to him that since buying a set of smite the local children had kept calling on them to see if they could come out to play.

The smite sets are made by a family firm in Bali and the wooden boxes containing the pins have an exotic appearance that fires the imagination of children and creates a sense of excitement even before the game has been played. Fortunately, the box and all the equipment is very robust and will stand up to any amount of ill treatment - an important consideration if the game is going to be used in schools.

This is a game that can add fun, novelty and educational value to any school that is looking for a new way to engage pupils. Seek it out on holiday in Cornwall or enter next year's world championship - one thing is for sure, you're bound to be smitten.

* Smite Kilham Farm, St Neot, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 6HG Tel: 01579 320922

Email: contact@smiteonline.co.uk www.smiteonline.co.uk

Lesson ideas

Applications of the gameThe smite set can be used in a variety of ways which combine PE and maths.

The game uses many maths concepts which could apply at key stage 2 and above: keeping running totals, using subtraction and addition to calculate target numbers, number bonds, calculating number combinations to reach totals.

The sets could be used mathematically in a variety of ways, many of which could be applied to younger children.

* Using a relay format, teams could race to bring back pins (in order) and replace in the box.

* Develop this idea fetching pins that show H T U, eg 327, etc going on to 4 or 5 digit numbers (pins to be replaced in boxes showing correct place value).

* Ditto using evenodd numbers.

* Relays returning differences between two numbers, or totals of two or three numbers.

This could be used for multiplication and division sums.

Target numbers could be brought back so that a strategy could be worked out.

* Make the largest number possible using eg 10, 9, 7 and 6 - lots of place value work.

* Use stopwatches to time racing activities.

* Each team has the same 456 digit number written on a piece of paper face down. First team to bring back that number in the correct order wins.

* Bring back three numbers that make 21, or four numbers that make 30.

Discussion needed as there is only one of each number in the box.

* Fractions and percentages relays.

* Use bean bags with younger children instead of the wooden smiter.

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