Clumsy Thief is a wacky, cartoony math game that kids will beg to play–and also happens to be amazingly effective at teaching kids to mentally add big numbers.
There are two versions (both of them awesome) that teach mental addition. The original game teaches kids number pairs that add to 100. The newer game, Clumsy Thief In The Candy Store, teaches number pairs that add to 20.
You can see my review of both versions below, along with directions for how to play and some tips on how to get the most out of this fun math game.
Clumsy Thief Game Review
First off, I should note that the artwork for Clumsy Thief is freaking adorable.
Kids take just one look at the box and say, “I want to play THAT game.”
Once they’re playing, of course, it gets even better.
Clumsy Thief is fast moving–or can go as slow as you need it to. It’s unpredictable and delightfully surprising, but easy to learn. AND, it sneakily helps kids get better at math!
In the original Clumsy Thief game (above), kids collect money cards in amounts that add up to $100: $40 and $60, $55 and $45, $25 and $75, and so on.
The game gets even more fun when people start stealing each other’s cards–either by adding to $100 or by using their ridiculously cute “thief” cards.
The even more colorful “Candy Store” version works in exactly the same way, except that you collect candy instead of money, and add up to twenty: 8 and 12, 14 and 6, 17 and 3, and so on. (I actually think the adding to 20 version is a bit harder.)
It’s quite impressive how fast kids learn the number pairs, so they can speedily calculate “55 plus what equals 100?” and snag their partner’s money pile!
How To Play Clumsy Thief
Best for: learning pairs of numbers that add to 100 (original game) or pairs that add to 20 (Candy Store game).
Prep: Shuffle the number cards, thieves, and jail cards together. Deal 7 cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the center of the table.
- Look at the numbers in your hand and try to find two cards that add to 100. Put any pairs down in front of you, face up.
- When you have played all the pairs you can, look at the other face-up cards around the table in front of the other players.
- Now you can play on other players’ face-up cards and steal their card piles (and they can steal yours!). Let’s say another player has a pair with $20 showing as the top card, and you have an $80 card. You can put your $80 on top of the pile and take it for yourself.
- Now one of your piles has $80 as the top card. Another player can put a $20 card on top of that, and steal the pile from you!
- All of this happens at the same time–players making their own pairs, and stealing piles from other players.
- When no-one else can play, all players pick a card from the center pile. Pause after every draw to see if someone can play. If not, everyone draws again.
- SPECIAL CARDS: A “thief” card can steal any number pile, or a pile with another thief on top.
- Play your “jail” card on any pile with a thief on it. Once you’ve played a jail, that pile is yours forever. No-one can steal it away from you.
- When everyone runs out of cards to play, count up your points–the numbers on your cards. (It’s easiest to make pairs of 100, then count by 100s.)
- Clumsy Thief In The Candy Shop is played in exactly the same way, except that they have pictures of candies, and the numbers add up to 20.
Clumsy Thief Math Notes
First-time players may have a hard time mentally adding the numbers, and may miss opportunities for points because it takes them longer to find number pairs.
The first few times I play with kids, I brainstorm common number pairs that add up to one hundred. I write 25 and say, “25 and how many more add up to 100?” We end up with a list of number pairs found in the Clumsy Thief game:
20-80, 25-75, 30-70, 40-60, 45-55, and 50-50
When we’ve finished, we have a “cheat sheet” of number pairs that kids can look at during the game. The kids often don’t need it after they have played a few times.
The Candy Store game has pairs that add up to 20:
2-18, 3-17, 4-16, 5-15, 6-14, 7-13, 8-12, 10-10
(Once we’ve written them out in order, I have them look for patterns. Kids are fascinated to discover 8-12 and 18-2, 3-17 and 13-7, and similar patterns.)
Clumsy Thief is an awesome addition game–and kids love it.
It’s great as a family game or for mixed ages, as long as you make a cheat sheet for the littles. It doesn’t “feel” like a math game…it just feels fun!
My only complaint about this game is that kids like it so much, they get a little obsessive and I have to forcibly remove it from their line of sight so we can do something else once in a while…
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Have a question about how to play Clumsy Thief, or whether it might be a good fit for your kids? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help!