I’ve invented a myriad of silly and quirky games to play with my students over my 3 years teaching and 1 year as an in-school math specialist. I’ve written about one of these already in a blog post. By far, many of my students’ favorite game, though, is Dragon Slayer and its various iterations.

Dragon Slayer started off my first year teaching as a conversation with some of my middle school students (I taught 7th and 8th grade at the time) about video games that we enjoyed playing and role-playing games that I traditionally have played growing up. After leaving excited that day about our common interest, I devised Dragon Slayer on the way home in my head. I wasn’t sure it’d work as expected, but it worked like a charm.

When is this game played? Anytime you need to review somewhat challenging content that students can collaborate together on is a key choice. I almost always reserve it as a review for tests or something similar. It isn’t as appropriate for day-to-day lesson integration.

So let’s see Dragon Slayer on the whiteboard first, then we can break it down…


This could just as easily be done on a Smartboard or Projector, but I find it much easier just to use my whiteboard and erase between turns.


The Rules

So, the Rules:

  • The Class plays collectively on a team; that is, everyone wins or loses together. I typically have candy or some other treat as a reward.
  • Turns begin with one student, who gets to choose what move to make, and each turn a different student gets to select the move to make. However, teamwork and consulting classmates is encouraged.
  • The object of the game is to kill the Dragon before he kills the Class.

The Board

The gameboard is broken up into several areas:

  • The Class begins with 10 HP. This is the “life” of the Class. If the Class reaches 0 HP at any point, they lose the game. Also note, the HP is maxed out at 10 HP.
  • The Move Counter begins at 5 and counts down 1 at the end of each turn. When it reaches 0, the Dragon attacks twice. Afterwards, it resets to 1 less than what it started counting down at. More on that below.
  • The game begins with 15 Crystals. Crystals are the currency of the game. Everything costs Crystals to do. More Crystals are obtained by the Class correctly answering Questions (see below).
  • The Dragon’s HP begins with 50 HP. This is the Dragon’s “life”. Once it reaches 0, the class wins.
  • The Attack Wheel (unshown above). This is where attacks are made. I use Wheel Decide for it, but there’s apps/sites that do the same. Essentially, it’s a die with the numbers 0-5 on it. See below. Students click it to spin.dragonslayer2



  1. Begin the game with selecting a student to make a move. The options they have for moves are a) Attack, B) Heal, C) Level-Up, or D) Question.
    1. Attack: Costs 5 Crystals to do. To attack, students spin the Attack Wheel, and whatever number it shows is inflicted as damage to the Dragon.
    2. Heal: Costs 10 Crystals to do. Resets the Class’s HP to 10. If it’s already 10, this move does nothing.
    3. Level-Up: Costs 10 Crystals to do. Can Level-Up Attack or Questions. The chosen one gets a x2 next to it on the board. (Subsequent Level-Ups go x3, x4, etc.) This means Attacks will be multiplied by that amount to the Dragon, or the number of Crystals obtained by a Question will be multiplied by that amount, respectively. Very important to win.
    4. Question: The bread-and-butter of the game. This is where you ask a math question to the entire class, give them time to work it, and then acquire their answers. For every student that gets it right, the Class earns Crystals. This has required balancing over the years. The best I’ve come up with is that the number of Crystals each student wins for their Class on correctly answering a Question is 20/# Students in class rounded up, but a minimum of 1. So if you have 10 people in your class, each student earns 2 Crystals. If you have 5 Students, each Student earns 4 Crystals. If you have 17 Students, each Student earns 1 Crystal. If you have 25 Students, each Student earns 1 Crystal. Etc
  2. Once that student moves, the Move Counter goes from 5 to 4. Then, play progresses to the next student. (Remember the class can advise and consent the student.)
  3. Once the Move Counter reaches 0, the Dragon gets to Attack (by spinning the Attack Wheel), and he attacks twice instead of once. A special rule is he isn’t allowed to one-hit-KO the class, so if he hits 5 +5 (rare), it only does 9 damage instead of 10.
  4. After the Dragon attacks, the next round begins, and the Move Counter resets to 1 lower than the previous round, so after his first attack, the Move Counter goes to 4.
  5. Play progresses as before.
  6. After the Dragon’s second attack, the Move Counter resets to 3.
  7. And so on.
  8. Once the Move Counter is “frozen” at 0 (due to the pattern above), he will begin attacking at the end of every turn.
  9. If the Class gets the Dragon to 0 HP, the Class wins. Otherwise, the Dragon gets the class to 0 HP, and the Dragon wins.


It seems like a LOT to look at and explain to your class, but I promise you, after 4 years of playing it with students, they pick it up extremely fast and come up with massively interesting and complicated strategies over time.

It is not an easy game to win. Most classes lose the first time playing, but quickly adapt their own unique strategies to overcome and defeat the Dragon. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had students come up to me in the hallway or come into class and exclaim “Please say we are fighting the Dragon today!” or rush to their next teacher’s room and that teacher come ask me “What’s this about them killing Dragons? They’re so excited.” It really relates to them on a level they can understand and enjoy immensely. These students grew up with games on a daily basis usually, so this taps into what they know and are comfortable with.

My students have loved it so much, we have taken it and adopted it into several different iterations with different types of Dragons, “Monster Drops” of items the class can collect on successful kills, a Treasury where the class can “buy” (with made-up currency) items to help them defeat the Dragon, and even end-of-year King Dragon Finale fights involving a 500 HP behemoth Dragon.

I know this type of outside-the-box adventure isn’t for every educator (or every student), but it takes the math content (or any subject content really) and embeds it into a fun role-playing game. It’s like when your parents hide veggies inside a casserole to trick you into eating it. The students barely even know they’re doing math!

If you want to give it a try in this upcoming school year, let me know how it goes! And drop me a line on Twitter @MathStuart. Thanks all!


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