Simple Nim

Pens and pencils

This is a game for two players.

Make a pile of ten items. Pens and pencils would be suitable.

Each player takes it in turn to remove one, two or three items.

The player to remove the last item is the winner.

Play the game four or five times then write down any strategies you may have found.


Computer Plays Nim

Are you good enough to challenge the computer at this game?

The computer plays Multi-pile Nim.

Click the button below to start.

Online Nim

Click a link below for the Flash versions of Single-pile Nim:
10 pencils | 11 pencils | 12 pencils | 13 pencils


Topics: Starter | Games | Number | Problem Solving

  • Wikepedia,
  • Variants of Nim have been played since ancient times. The game is said to have originated in China (it closely resembles the Chinese game of Tsyanshidzi, or "picking stones"), but the origin is uncertain; the earliest European references to Nim are from the beginning of the 16th century. Its current name was coined by Charles L. Bouton of Harvard University, who also developed the complete theory of the game in 1901, but the origins of the name were never fully explained. The name is probably derived from German nimm! meaning "take!", or the obsolete English verb nim of the same meaning. Some people have noted that turning the word NIM upside-down and backwards results in WIN.

    Nim is usually played as a misère game, in which the player to take the last object loses. Nim can also be played as a normal play game, which means that the person who makes the last move (i.e., who takes the last object) wins. This is called normal play because most games follow this convention, even though Nim usually does not.
  • Hannah Maxfield, 9T (St Margaret Ward)
  • I found this settler very good because it was practical. The 1st person to remove the third item wins!!!! You can also do this by words
  • Mere, Kogarah
  • This is a very cool game, I played it with my sister
  • Zara, Belmont Academy
  • Very interesting...
    Tried it with my sister, mum and friend. Would like to see more practical things though. But overall, very good.
  • Mrs Sweeney's P6/7 Maths Group, Netherlee PS
  • A great game. What started as a quick starter developed into lots of problem solving. We tried increasing the number of objects, increasing the number of players and increasing the number of objects you could take in one go - 1, 2, 3 or 4. We had lots of fun coming up with strategies, seeing if changing something changed the strategy, and most importantly - seeing if we could beat the teacher!
  • Transum,
  • At the very least this game provides some mental maths practice as the players do the calculations required to see what effect their move will have on the possible next moves. A very easy to organise lesson starter activity assuming your pupils come with enough pens and pencils between them!
  • Tennessee Rock Game, Alabama
  • Just play foursies, just leave your opponent with any multiple of four. you can't lose unless you do a dumb dumb on the last 4.

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
Click here to enter your comments.

If you don't have the time to provide feedback we'd really appreciate it if you could give this page a score! We are constantly improving and adding to these starters so it would be really helpful to know which ones are most useful. Simply click on a button below:

Excellent, I would like to see more like this
Good, achieved the results I required
Didn't really capture the interest of the students
Not for me! I wouldn't use this type of activity.

This starter has scored a mean of 3.1 out of 5 based on 113 votes.

Previous Day | This starter is for 29 May | Next Day



Your access to the majority of the Transum resources continues to be free but you can help support the continued growth of the website by doing your Amazon shopping using the links on this page. Below is an Amazon search box and some items chosen and recommended by Transum Mathematics to get you started.

Have you read Craig's book yet?

Craig Barton must surely be the voice of Mathematics teachers in the UK. His wonderful podcasts interviewing the industry experts have culminated in this wonderful book. As Craig says: "I genuinely believe I have never taught mathematics better, and my students have never learned more. I just wish I had known all of this twelve years ago..." more...

"How I wish I’d taught maths' is an extraordinary and important book. Part guide to research, part memoir, part survival handbook, it’s a wonderfully accessible guide to the latest research on teaching mathematics, presented in a disarmingly honest and readable way. I know of no other book that presents as much usable research evidence on the dos and don’ts of mathematics teaching in such a clear and practical way. No matter how long you have been doing it, if you teach mathematics—from primary school to university—this book is for you." Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment, UCL.

The Craig Barton Book

Graphic Display Calculator

This handheld device and companion software are designed to generate opportunities for classroom exploration and to promote greater understanding of core concepts in the mathematics and science classroom. TI-Nspire technology has been developed through sound classroom research which shows that "linked multiple representation are crucial in development of conceptual understanding and it is feasible only through use of a technology such as TI-Nspire, which provides simultaneous, dynamically linked representations of graphs, equations, data, and verbal explanations, such that a change in one representation is immediately reflected in the others.

For the young people in your life it is a great investment. Bought as a gift for a special occasion but useful for many years to come as the young person turns into an A-level candidate then works their way through university. more...

iPad Air

The analytics show that more and more people are accessing Transum Mathematics via an iPad as it is so portable and responsive. The iPad has so many other uses in addition to solving Transum's puzzles and challenges and it would make an excellent gift for anyone.

You have to hold iPad Air to believe it. It’s just 7.5 millimeters thin and weighs just one pound. The stunning Retina display sits inside thinner bezels, so all you see is your content. And an incredible amount of power lies inside the sleek enclosure. So you can do so much more. With so much less. more...

Before giving an iPad as a gift you could add a link to iPad Maths to the home screen.

Click the images above to see all the details of these items and to buy them online.

Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers?
Do they have iPads or Laptops in Lessons?

Whether your students each have a TabletPC, a Surface or a Mac, this activity lends itself to eLearning (Engaged Learning).

Laptops In Lessons

Here a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments.

Here is the URL which will take them to Multi-pile Nim which is a different game but based on similar principles.

Student Activity

Students might also like to try Calculator Nim.

Student Activity



©1997-2018 WWW.TRANSUM.ORG