Chicago Academic Games League


An affiliate of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

Summer 04 Conf. Reporter feature



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The Chicago Academic Games League [CAGL] is a teacher/parent collaboration, a program merging substantive math with athletic models of teams, games, and tournaments. Each year, from October through April, students and teachers from Chicago public schools around the city meet once each month for a Saturday tournament. Schools are self selecting; teachers and parents are volunteers; students participate of their own volition - not for grades or credit. The program is geared to grades 5 through 8, and the core of the games is pre-algebra.

CAGL is an affiliate of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Administrator: Rita Yacker, 773 363-0328, Director: James Wilson, Jr. See feature from the Summer, 2004 Reporter.

CAGL meets the 3rd Saturday of each month (generally) and is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon.

Features: CAGL Kids Have Math in Palm of Their Hands

An in depth look from the Summer 2004 Conference Reporter: Kids and Games: CAGL's Natural Combination




The games are played at the University of Chicago Lab Schools, 59th Street between Kimbark and Kenwood (yes, the star's a bit wrong; entry at Blaine Hall, 1362 E. 59th St.) Curbside parking, westbound street. Walk through the courtyard into the Cafeteria (security guard will direct you).

cagl1.jpg (52140 bytes)

Among the built in benefits and features of the program are the experiences for good sportsmanship, arbitration, learning divergent thinking skills, respect for rules and other people, responsibility for choices and the documentation of scoresheets.

CAGL is a program of the Schools Committee of the Hyde Park - Kenwood Community Conference [a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.].
All contributions are tax deductible
and may be earmarked for CAGL.

The membership fee per school is $50.00, payable at the first tournament of each year. It covers the costs of maintaining the materials and the entitlement to a monthly newsletter, TEAMWORKS . For expenses (bus transportation, for example) we are self-supporting. CAGL is the only community based program of this type in the country.

The Director for the program is James L. Wilson, Jr., a math faculty member in the Chicago City College system. Co Director is Contessa Griffin, teacher at Mason Elementary. Volunteer administrator is Rita Yacker.

click for driving directionsSlightly inacc. Lab School loc.

Students participate as a member of a school team,
not as individuals. A teacher is the designated sponsor and commits to attending the Saturday tournaments and holding practice sessions at the schools between tournaments. The various management tasks (judging, organizing materials, scheduling, etc.) are shared among the parents and sponsors. We are assisted, in addition, by High School Aides. The Aides are alumni of the program and work with us on Saturdays to earn a scholarship to the INVITATIONAL weekend tournament in May. Sponsors are their mentors and role models. Parents and teacher-colleagues act as chaperones for the trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.


We believe strongly in positive reinforcement, in the need for children to identify with their schools and an activity in a positive way and, further, to believe in their own potential for success. There is also a strong base for peer teaching, for cooperative learning and for responsibilities to a team. Some of our tools are T-shirts, certificates, and newsletters.

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To order games, call Mrs. Yacker at (773) 363-0328. EQUATIONS and BOGGLE cost $30 per game individually (each game is played by 3 children simultaneously). A classroom set is 10 games serving 30 students. Membership in CAGL (and purchase of the minimum 10 games, for a class, entitles the school to 25% discount on each sets of 10 or more.  We welcome your interest and look forward to greeting you and your team members. 
                        Rita B. Yacker, 
              Volunteer Administrator   



An affiliate programmatic committee of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

A feature from the summer, 2004 HPKCC Conference Reporter:

Kids and Games: CAGL's Natural Combination

by Rita Yacker

If you should visit a Saturday tournament of hte Chicago Academic Games Leage at the U-High cafeteria, you would find a cavernous room full of middle-grade children and you would hear nothing but an occasional crumple of paper or the scrape of pencils moving quickly across paper. No electronic beeps or dings or clicks--nothing but brains geting their juices flowing, whatever that sound may be! At times, there will be a hand in the air, the signal tha a player needs a judge to help settle an issue, part of the arbitration process that is an integral piece of the whol package in the playing of the games. That's not surprising when one considers t hast the author of the game was a law professor at Yale.

Layman Allen, the professor, as trying to teach law students to theink purposefully and logically in their written and oral arguments. To this end, he invented WFF 'N PROOF (logic) and then EQUATIONS in a game form that students could play together and teach each other, all the while taking responsibility for their own conclusions and processes by keeping score.

Rules are an essential part of the package: rules of thegame, rules of Math (in Equations), and rules of civility. The rules key to the variables the kids have to keep in their heads as the play progresses. Academic Games is not contact sports. Every move is orderly and "by the book." The point of the game is to be the last player left with a viable solution, within the time allowed (a timer is part of the game). Observers will see a playing mat shared by three students, holding colored wooden cubes with symbols on them: number 0-9, and the four math operations plus square root and exponent. Closer observation wil reveal that the playing mat has four large sections: the largest is resources, which has to hold a random "shake" of all 24 colored cubes to start the game. Under the resources spot are three sections lableled forbidding, permitted, and required. As each player takes a turn, a cube is moved to block an oponent or enhance the player's (mover's) chances.

This is the genius of the game. Making decisions is critical in the game and in life, and so is taking responsibility for choices made. The playing mat, with its model of decision-making, has been used by me in strategizing in the community or personally to evaluate choices and what is viable. Program Director James Wilson calls it the "Game of Life" when he speaks about the program. It makes a powerful statement, keeping argument to a minimum and conclusions clearly defined.

Substance, discipline, teamwork, and good sportsmanship are all fundamenal to the games and have been so for the 25 years we have run it. The individual school may bring as many kids as the sponsor designates, enourging teachers to include youngsters at all levels of math ability. The content of the games fills needs at both the upper and lower ranges of ability. Organization of the teams is another critical difference that sets CAGL apat from other activities. There is always movement during the tournament, at the end of the rounds. No child is frozen inplace by his or her ability. The goal is to keep kids playing at the limits of their ability without being wiped out by opponents. Teachers rank their teams and opponents from other schools are matched so that kids are challenged and comfortable at the same time. Teachers must be sensitive, informed and supportive, a requirement that actually makes them better classroom teachers.

Over the years, administrators of various sorts have asked us for evaluations of the program. We have never had the resources to do an evaluation of the type they refer to: the quantive (and often meaningless) drone of how many did this, what scores they made on the Iowa Tests afterward, and all that goes with that. With this much experience, what keeps us enthusiastic is that everyone participates voluntarily: teachers, students , and the Games organizers. From time to time, we hear of our alumni who remember their experiences with the progrm very vividly. In the past year incidents of our impact on young liveshave increased so much that we realize tht we have grown our own cadre of teachers in the Chicago Public School ranks. The mature young people are now createing a new wave of second-generation players as they as they contact us to join the League. They have told us that, although they were from different scxhools and frequently did not know one another prior to their encounters at workshops, area meetings, or professional development programs, their enthusiasm has always been keen, evoking the recolections of the Invitational at Lake Geneva, the meets at U-High, and the sponsors that guided them, providing mentoring and mdeling.

In our dealings with both children and adults, we emphasize that our standards and requirements are based on fundamental good sense. The new crop of teachers wer have grown underscores our good instincts were trustworthy.

For information about the monthly Saturday tournaments at u-High, October through April, and the weekend in Wisconsin in May, call the Conference (773-288-8343) or Rita Yacker (773-363-0328). Students in grades 5-8 may join only as pat of a school team, with a teacher-sponsor from that school. Games may be ordered using the same contact numbers as above.