Exploring Culture Numerically

Nellie Hughes is a genius! She is also a truly lovely person and I know this because as an ‘apprentice’ coach at the 2018 iFLT conference, I was fortuntate to work with both her and Gary DiBianca! A truly memorable experience.

Nelly Hughes is also generous. Not only has she developed a highly engaging game based around cultural number facts, she has also generously permitted me to share my experience using it in the Indonesian classroom. I initially read about this game on Martina Bex’s website. I immediately knew it had potential for our Indonesian context and her tab remained opened on my laptop as I considered it. Then I picked up a horrible bug and suddenly Nelly’s game became a viable option for two relief lessons conducted, as usual, by a monolingual relief teacher. My first quiz was based on Indonesian geography and the second on agricultural animals in Indonesia. I received little specific feedback about the games beyond that the students enjoyed it and that playing it was confusing the first time. So last week, I decided to give it a go myself. Not only was this game suitable for a TRT, but it is also be a great idea for end of term!!

Here is how I went about it:

The first thing to do is choose a topic. The topic can be directly taken from ACARA e.g. Ramadan, Hari Raya Nyepi (ACARA Yr. 7/8), leisure activities e.g. takraw, bulu tangkis or environment e.g. hutan, gunung api (ACARA Yr. 5/6). The topic I chose was orangutan.

Once the topic is established, the next task is to create a bank of berapa (how many/how much) questions. My questions and answers were:

  • How many species of orangutan are there? 3
  • In the wild, how many years do orangutan live for? 50
  • Fully grown female orangutan stand how tall (in cm)? 100cm
  • Baby orangutan stay with their mother for how many years on average? 10 years
  • How many orangutan are left in Sumatra? 13,846
  • How many orangutan are left in Borneo? 104,700
  • How many Tapanuli orangutan are left? 800
  • In what year were the Tapanuli species identified? (different to the orangutan from North Sumatra and Borneo) 2017
  • How long is the gestation period for orangutan? 8.5 months
  • How many babies on average does a female orangutan have in her lifetime? 3
  • How many orangutan are killed every year? 2,500
  • When is Puspa’s birthday (the female orangutan at the Adelaide zoo)? 30 April (1975)

I sourced these facts from various websites and where numbers differed, I chose the one that seemed to be the most up to date. As you can guess, the answers to each fact invited discussion and inevitably there was at least one student who initiated it.

Creating the questions and answers is the hardest part of this game! From there, it gets so much easier!

Students firstly need to be put into groups. The number of groups depends on an important factor; the number of different coloured white board markers you have. Ideally groups of 4 students work the best as then everyone has a job, but it’s not a deal breaker if you can’t. I recommend using class dojo for creating groups as there is a feature that allows you to specify which students not to group together! To find it, follow these steps: Open Toolkit (bottom left), Open Group Maker then open the blue link “Don’t group together’. (See below). Here you can create multiple groups of students who are not to be in the same group. For me, this really helps with behaviour management because I can guarantee certain ratbags are separated which helps balance their leverage within group decisions.

Once the groups are in the EEKK position (sitting in a circle – eye to eye and knee to knee) explain there are 4 student jobs within their groups. I explained the jobs as we played the first round and left it up to groups to assign the jobs.

The first job is writer. Once allocated, I invited the writer to come to the front of the room and take one small white board, a white board marker and a mini duster.

Then the game begins….

Explain that the answers to all of the questions are numbers and that teams work together to decide on their answer which the writer will write on the white board in large numbers. When the number is written, the writer will hand the board to the walker, the second job holder. At this point, I asked the first question. It is important that groups decide quickly on the answer – thirty seconds is more than enough. All the boards are then placed side by side in front of a whiteboard. The boards simply need to be standing up side by side where all students can see them.

The writer next gives the marker to the ‘tukang simbol’ (the student who is confident drawing a triangle and an asterix) who after discussing with their group, will draw a triangle above the number that represents the groups best guess of the right answer and an asterix above the board that is their groups second guess. If supremely confident, teams can put both symbols above the same board.

When all teams are seated and listening, read out the question again and its answer.

Finally is the awarding of points and introducing the final job. Before announcing team points, the tukang simbol hands the tukang skor -scorer – (final job) the marker who will add the team points to the score board as the teacher announces them. For this, I allocated team names based on the colour of their marker to save time but choosing team names could also be built into future games! It is in the awarding of points that you will recognise the genius of different coloured markers!

Here is how I awarded points:

3 points to the teams who guessed the exact answer
1 point to the teams who guessed closest to the correct answer without going over.
1 point to each team with an asterix above the correct answer
2 points to each team with a triangle above the correct answer.

Board showing symbols and scores after two rounds with the year 2/3 class.


I played this entirely in English. This was deliberate to ensure the game worked and allowed me to consolidate the rules and equipment for students so that if I set it for another relief day, students can support the relief teacher. I began experimenting with creating a powerpoint to support the game and to explore the Indonesian vocabulary necessary to play it. The beauty of this is that images and info can be included to supplement discussions about aspects of the topic. For example, the first slide for the orangutan topic could include images of the three different species of orangutan to illustrate their similarities ad differences.

The game itself took quite a bit more time than I expected to explain the roles and the rules. This meant that classes rarely moved beyond two rounds. Thus I recommend making it the main part of your lesson the first time you introduce this to classes. It would be a fabulous lesson for week 10!!

I trialled it with year 2/3’s to year 8’s and all classes thoroughly enjoyed it.

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