In advance, prepare a set of large printed numbers 0 to 9 on individual sheets of paper.
Also, write a long list of small and large numbers which utilise only one instance of each digit.
When ready, distribute one printed number so that each person is holding one of each of the ten numbers.
Challenge your group to shuffle the numbers they are holding as fast and as accurately as they can to match each number you announce over several rounds.
Announce your first number or write it on a whiteboard / flip-chart paper, eg 96,471.
In this case, the five people holding these particiular numbers will shuffle their positions to represent the number 9 – 6 – 4 – 7 – 1 while the rest of the group steps back and looks on.
Continue to announce more numbers, bouncing between small and large numbers regularly.
Play for up to 5 minutes and/or try something new from the Variations tab.
How To Play Narrative
Before you start, you have two simple tasks to complete:
Print all ten numbers 0 to 9 on a single sheet of paper, the larger the better; and
Write a list of 20+ small and large numbers which include only one instance of each digit in the number.
The first task is self-explanatory and to make it super-simple, check out the Resources tab to download these numbers ready to print.
The second task is to create a list that looks a bit like this – 96,471 – 284 – 109,382 – 4,562,879 – 1,093, etc. Note that in each number, only one instance of each digit occurs. Be sure to mix your list with small and large integers.
Now you’re ready to start.
Gather your group and form a team of ten people. Distribute one large printed number to each person and explain that each person will hang onto this number for the duration of the game.
Announce that over the course of the next few minutes, you will announce and display a series of small and large numbers to the group. Challenge your group to re-arrange their individual positions so that when you are looking at them as a whole, the number is accurately displayed before you.
For example, if the number is 96,471, the five people (holding these five numbers) will shuffle their positions to represent the number 9 – 6 – 4 – 7 – 1 while the rest of the group steps back and looks on.
Of course, accuracy is the key, but so is speed. The ultimate challenge is for your group to shuffle their positions to form each announced number as fast and accurately as possible.
It usually takes one or two rounds for the group to understand what is going on. After that, if your goal is to generate enormous bundles of energy, feel free to fire out one number after another to challenge your group to keep up.
Continue for several minutes, or have a look at the Variations tab for something new.
If you’re looking to draw some teambuilding lessons from this exercise, reflect on topics such as planning, cooperation, and perspective.
Practical Leadership Tips
Ideally, if you can display a large printed sign with each number (you announce) on it for your group to see, this can be a useful reference point for everyone.
If working with groups of less than ten people, note any numbers that are not distributed to your group and eliminate any number with that digit in it from your list of numbers to be announced – this is another reason you need to start with a very long list of numbers.
Yes, you can use any other props that display numbers, such as a regular deck of playing cards. But there is no doubt that the bigger the numbers, the easier it is to see them.
If you use this exercise a lot, it’s a good idea to laminate the printed numbers for durability.
Work off a printed list of small and large numbers or, better still, save this list on your smartphone.
If you skip over the advance preparation of a long list of numbers to announce, be sure to write them down as you announce them, lest everyone will get confused.
Health & Wellness Programming
As a group problem-solving exercise, Number Shuffle is ideal for exploring the development of social and interpersonal skills. The ability to read social cues, cooperate, resolve conflicts and work effectively with others are all exemplified in this activity. Refer to the Reflections tab for useful reflection questions.
There is no doubt that while the task is relatively simple, the process by which your group chooses to solve it could be quite difficult. In their efforts to achieve certain targets, it is likely that the patience of some members will be tested over time, providing opportunities to explore the topic of resilience. Your group may find value in reflecting on the following questions:
When did you know that you were getting frustrated? How did it manifest itself?
Did you feel alone in feeling this way? How did you know?
What did you do with these feelings?
Did you try to re-focus? In what ways? Were you successful?
In what ways were the varying needs of your group accommodated?
What would it take for you to re-focus?
What needs to change?
Audible Number Shuffle: Resist the temptation to make this task easy (by writing the announced number for all to see) and call it out aloud only.
Change Up: For each round, ask your group to swap numbers so that everyone has a different number for the next round. If you like this idea, you’ll love Change Up, a fantastic team-building exercise.
Competition 1: Challenge your group to accurately re-create as many of the numbers you announce in one or two minutes. Repeat this challenge several times to achieve a nominal world record.
Competition 2: Form multiple teams of 10 people each. Equip each team with a full set of 0 to 9 numbers. Announce a series of numbers and award the first group to form the correct number with a point. The team with the most points at the end of, say, ten rounds, wins.
Take a look at Quick Shuffle, a simple group initiative that directs your group’s attention on making the least number of moves or shuffles as possible.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Viewing things from a different perspective is a wonderful skill to develop that not only helps you to empathise with others, but also gives you a more rounded understanding of what’s going on. This next exercise will develop your skills of perspective in regards to the way you read numbers…
Are you up for a team challenge? Everyone will have a distinct role but your success as a group will depend entirely on your ability to cooperate with one another, not to mention your speed and accuracy…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this simple group initiative:
Describe how your group first started to solve the number-shuffling problems.
Did your process evolve and get better over time?
What strategies did you implement to improve your performance?
How easy was it to read the numbers upside-down?
What helped? What did not help?
Where else in our lives do cooperation and perspective help us?
The inspiration for Number Shuffle was sourced from the folks at Elevate Experience. Check out their fun YouTube video for more.