Playing Azul in Class

Enliven your math class by playing Azul. Azul is a game for 2-4 players requiring players to take turns obtaining beautiful tiles to arrange them on their wall. Placing tiles requires orienting, locating and assembling tiles on a fixed grid to grow rows and columns to obtain points. Then at the end of the game bonuses are scored for completed rows, columns and sets of tiles. The player with the most points wins. Strategies involve planning for the growth of rows and columns, predicting which tiles are needed, and analyzing plays for growth or offensive moves. This page provides some tips and ideas for playing this game in the classroom.

Considerations for getting started

Azul takes about 30 minutes to play one game once you know the rules. It works perfectly in a 45 minute class with set up, playing one game, wrap up, and reflection.

  • Number of games: For a class of 28 students you will need 8 games. Each game has enough tiles for 4 students. Make sure you get a game for yourself so you can play it with your friends and family too. It really helps to know the games. If your budget allows, a spare box is useful for signing out to a student who has been absent to play at home.
  • Label games: We labelled and numbered the lid and box base of each game. Each group was responsible for their numbered game. We found these labels really helped with accountability for keeping the game complete.
  • Print out the weekly reflection sheets for each student. We recommend keeping score with the board provided. Scoring provides experiences with number as movement along a number line, and important experience for developing fluency with rational numbers.

Co-operative play

Sometimes students would prefer to play co-operatively rather than competitively. Below are a few suggestions to change to more cooperative play.

  • Students could play in pairs to play as a team (two players for each set of tiles), 
  • Students could play in pairs by combining the tiles (two players for each set of two tiles),
  • Provide a challenge to see which team can get the highest score.
Week 1: Introduction of the game

Focus

  • Mathematical & Logical Reasoning: Exploring the possibilities which tiles to place on the Wall.  Evaluating whether a tile(s) can fit into the gridInvestigate how to score adjacent tiles repeatedly in columns.
  • Spatial Reasoning: Fitting and arranging the tiles together by locating tiles to align with existing features. 
  • Noticings: Are students taking more than one colour of tiles from the Factory Displays? Are students placing tiles on more than one Floor Line in a round? Are students placing tiles on the Wall before their Floor Line is complete.

Here is a useful video for introducing how to play Azul:

We liked to start by playing a game against one student, with the rest of the class gathered around. We deliberately made a couple of mistakes to clarify rules such as taking more than one color of tiles from the factory displays, or placing tiles from the factory display in more than one floor line, or putting tiles on the wall before the floor line is complete.

Divide students into their groups. Give each Group the same numbered game. Then have them play Azul. We liked having the students in pairs for this first game play. Then they can discuss their play and help each other. Expect lots of questions on the first day.

After Game Play

Give each student Reflection Sheet 1Reflection Sheet 1. enables assessment of students’ strategies and understanding of the game. Having Blue and Red pens or pencils helped us assess their completed sheets. Once the sheets are complete, assess them as a class. You could have them assess their own as you complete it on a whiteboard or screen. REMEMBER: The assessments are not to assign a mark, they are just to assess and further understandings of the games and strategies.

Week 2: Clarification of the rules and scoring

Focus

  • Mathematical & Logical Reasoning: Examining where to place tiles on the Wall to grow columns and rows for scoring adjacent tiles.
  • Spatial Reasoning: Visualizing and constructing rows and columns and 5 tiles.
  • Noticings: When students place a tile onto the Wall an adjacent tile, are they scoring the size of the column or row? or are they counting the tiles they placed?

Suggestions for Game Play

Start to play a game against one student. Review the common mistakes listed in Week 1. Students keep track of their score board on a number line. This provides them with spatial experiences of number along a path and number as measurement. Each of these experiences contributes to nuanced understandings of number that are useful for understandings rational numbers.

Organize the students to play the game. Give each Group the same numbered game. Let them play cooperatively or competitively. 

After, organize the students to clean up their games.

Give each student Reflection sheet 2Reflection sheet 2 enables assessment of students’ strategies and understanding of the game. You can get them to mark each other’s, or mark them as a class to improve understanding of the game.

Week 3: Strategizing

Focus

  • Mathematical & Logical Reasoning: Exploring and analyzing how to place tiles to grow rows and columns on Wall. Investigating scoring of adjacent tiles, columns, and 5 tiles. 
  • Spatial Reasoning: Moving and situating (positioning) tiles for constructing (fitting and composing) rows and columns
  • Noticings: Are students trying to make columns and 5 tiles for higher scoring?

Strategizing in Azul is multifaceted. Players need to plan for maximizing scoring during each round as well as for bonuses at the end. Here are a few ideas for strategizing that you could share with your students before playing Week 3’s game

  • planning the order placement as points are scored by the number of adjacent tiles,
  • balancing demerits for being the first player of a round and getting the first crack at the available tiles
  • planning for scoring from the top to the bottom. A tile placed below another scores itself and those above.
  • planning for bonuses. Getting a full column scores 7 and 5 tiles scores 10. Each requires playing 15 of the 20 tiles available.
  • offensively trying to push tiles to opponents when they cannot place them.
  • offensively trying to keep your opponent from getting the tiles they need to score completed columns or 5 tiles.
  • Completing the first row only requires 5 tiles and ends the game. Playing this leads to a quick game. It could be a strategy to do this every round.

After Game Play

Organize students to clean up their games. Give each student a reflection sheet aYou can get them to mark each other’s, or mark them as a class to improve understanding of the game. 

Student Journal Prompts: 

  • How does Azul tie into math?
  • Which are your favourite feature to make? Why?
Week 4: More game experiences

Keep playing this game as many times as your students enjoy this game. We have one more Reflection Sheet 4 to assess your students learning

Acknowledgements

Gratitude and credits to the students of Westmount Charter & Dr. Janelle McFeetors at the University

This resource draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Please cite this page as: 

Francis, K., Gierus, B., Mah, P., & Lai, H.(2023). Playing Carcassonne in class. In Inspiring STEM Educationhttps://doi.org/10.11575/6HDB-BQ48