Prepare your Nonsense Numbers score sheet in advance (see Resources tab to download sample.)
Divide your group into small groups of approx four to eight people.
Hand each group a copy of your ‘Nonsense Numbers’ sheet with a pen.
Ask each group to calculate the numerical value for each set of questions by sharing the relevant information for each person.
Allow 15 to 20 minutes to complete the questions.
The group which scores the highest aggregate score, wins.
Video Transcript for Nonsense Numbers
presented by Mark Collard
So in your small groups your plan is in a moment to achieve the highest score possible, but there’s a particular way that you need to be able to work so that you can earn a score. And in fact there are ten criteria and they are listed on a sheet of paper I’m about to give to each of your groups.
To give an example of how to play this so and in a moment you’ll need to grab yourself a pen, but with a pen at least one of you will actually record a score on the sheet, and in the end at the end of each of the ten questions add up the total score and that is the score by which you shall be compared against all of the other groups.
Naturally this is an honour system. You could make up the answers and get a very, very large score, but we’re all going to know when it looks so much bigger than everyone else that probably something’s at play beyond honesty.
In any case, here’s an example of one of the questions. It says… the category is birthdays.
For each person who is born in a different month, you earn one point. So as you go around your group you discover that there are two people born in June for example, that’s still just one point. But if there’s only one person in December, that’s another point. Another person in January, that’s one point. So for each month represented you earn a point. You write that down.
Then you go to the next place, birthplace. One point for each different state represented in the group. That also includes anyone outside of Australia. And again, so if all of you were born in Victoria, that’s just one point. But if someone was born in Queensland, there’s two points.
(What if they were born in the UK but different shires?)
We’ll give that. So for example if they were both born in Somerset, you had two people in your group from the UK born in Somerset, that would still just be one point, but question taken.
And on you go. You work your way. It’ll take you about ten minutes or so to answer all the questions. Add it up as you go along. As I say someone in a moment will grab themselves a pen. If you’ve got a question that needs clarity, feel free to bring me over.
(people playing Nonsense Numbers)
Bonus points. So in each column there’s a bonus point, if it applies to your group you get those points.
(people playing Nonsense Numbers)
It’s referred to as Nonsense Numbers, because it absolutely means nothing, but note the process, what actually occurred for you to actually create any score on your sheet, and the questions sometimes were quick, others took quite a bit of sharing to actually identify the number. So that’s where the value is in that activity, within that experience, that we now end up with a number.
I know all of you being ultra-competitive are going to want to know who won. So let’s work on this basis. If your group has a number, remember divide it by the number of people in your group to make it even. Put your hand up if it was above ten.
Okay, keep your hands up so long as your group has a number above what I qualify. Above twenty. Above thirty. Above forty. Now we’ll focus over here. Above fifty. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. And the score was…
A little golf clap. A little golf clap, ladies and gentlemen.
Someone must have had their own television show for twenty-two years to have scored so highly, but it’s a nonsense anyway…
How To Play Narrative
Your first step is to prepare your Nonsense Numbers score sheet in advance. It will consist of a series of questions that can all be answered with a set of numbers, which are then added together to give one total.
For example, one question may ask every person to count the number of letters that spell their name. Mine would be 4 (Mark) plus 4 (Alan) plus 7 (Collard) to equal 15 points. This is added to the sum of the score of my colleagues to calculate the numerical result for this question, and so on.
I have prepared a generic, ready-to-use Nonsense Numbers sheet in the Resources tab to get you started, but feel free to create your own criteria – there is no magic here.
One you have your sheets prepared, here’s how it works…
Divide into smaller groups of approximately four to eight people. Hand each group a copy of your ‘Nonsense Numbers’ sheet with a pen or two. Then, explain that you would like each group to calculate the numerical value for each set of questions by sharing the relevant information for each person.
Your instructions will prescribe how many points a group will score for particular attributes or experiences.
For a bit of fun, and to flush out those really interesting tidbits of information about your group, offer bonus points to reward particularly unique characteristics.
Add all the numbers, and you get a GIQ (Group Identity Quotient) for each group. Highest score wins, whatever that means.
Set a time limit if you like, but it’s not often necessary. The data is so nonsensical, the criteria seems to drive the group forward anyway.
Practical Leadership Tips
If your small groups happen to comprise an uneven number of people, ask each group to divide their GIQ by the number of people in their group to achieve a fairer (per person) result.
This exercise always takes longer than I estimate, so prepare a buffer in your program in case one or more groups get stuck in the detail.
Note, the focus of your approach to this exercise is the interaction and sharing which occurs. Sure, one group will always have a larger score, but it doesn’t mean anything.
If you work with a particularly diverse group, I often encourage the formation of small groups with people from as many diverse backgrounds as possible, hinting that this tactic will be a big advantage.
Be prepared for questions which seek to clarify what a question is really asking them to do. To this end, I refine my questions after every event I use this exercise.
You could integrate Nonsense Numbers as part of a well-designed SEL program to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully identify relevant information about each person may speak to the benefits of being mindful, but this would be a minor attribute of this particular game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Nonsense Numbers could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
More Nonsense: Here are some further questions you could ask:
– Longevity – 1 pt for each decade represented in your group;
– Occupation – 1pt for each occupation/job each person has held for more than 12 months;
– Sports – 1 pt for each sport (organised competition) each person has participated in; and
– Names – the number of letters in each person’s first, family or full name.
Specific Area: Design a set of criteria that relates to a specific field or realm, eg profession or school-based attributes. For example, if you are working with a group of teachers, you could specify the following criteria:
– Grades – 1 pt for each separate grade taught, and 5 pts for teaching six or more grades;
– Schools – 1 pt for each state in which they have taught, and 5 pts for teaching overseas; etc.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Divide your group into smaller teams (breakout rooms) of 4 to 8 people. Share a digital copy of your Nonsense Numbers sheet (or use the one we prepared in Resources tab) with each group. Invite one person to record the answers by typing into the document. Complete the quiz and then return everyone to the large group to report their results.
If you have a small group, you ask each question one at a time and invite your participants to type their answers into the chat room facility for tallying by a volunteer.
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Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, get-to-know-you-better game:
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How diverse do you think your group is? By what measure?
Does the total score you tallied at the end mean anything? In what way?
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What You Need:
10+ people, 30 mins, ‘Ice-Breaker Question Exchange’ Cards (Print+Play), Nonsense Numbers sheet (Print+Play)
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