Survivor Algebra How Survivor Algebra Works: The Rules

(Written in the summer of 2005 by Coolmath Karen)

Based on the TV show, Survivor, Survivor Algebra is just a twist on collaborative learning… a FUN twist! 

Students are put into tribes (usually 5 or 6 students).  If it's middle school or high school, you may want to separate the boys and the girls as this keeps flirting from being an issue.  Also, boys tend to be very dominant and we need those girls to speak up and discover that they are just as good in math as the boys.  This decision is up to you since you know your students better than I do.  I teach older kids (adults, really) so I usually mix them up...  But, I do still have to deal with flirting at times!

Here are the tribe names (copyrighted to, Inc., but you can use them in your classes):

Newtongon, Quotiedor, Numa, Pascalos, Calcula, Fractoanan, Subtracto, Pentanos, Arithmatog, Decimos, Algekor, Quadraticus, and Additron
(My spell check just went nuts!)

Exams are called "challenges."  Never call them tests or exams.  This makes them seem less intimidating.  Even write “Survivor Algebra Challenge #” at the top of each exam – uh, challenge!

Students still take individual challenges and will get their own individual grade, but, through their tribe they will be able to win bonus points.

Here are the official Survivor Algebra rules:

1) Each player will be placed into a tribe based on his/her info sheet.  (I elaborate on how I put the tribe together in a later section.)
2) Tribes will be balanced as well as possible based on the perceived abilities of its members.
3) Switching tribes is not allowed (unless there is some extreme problem).  Once students are placed into tribes, they have to stay there and make the best of it.
4) For college teachers only: Tribes may be merged (as players withdraw from the class) at the sole discretion of the Survivor Algebra host (that's you - the teacher.)  Of course, if all goes well, not many will withdraw!
5) A tribe may be disbanded at any time (again, at the sole discretion of the Survivor Algebra host) if it has become dysfunctional (socializing, bad grades, etc.)
6) An individual may be removed from the tribe if they have become disruptive to the rest of the tribe.  Being in a tribe is a privilege, not a right.
7) The tribes will compete in a pre-determined number of challenges throughout the course of the game.
8) For a tribe to win a challenge, the tribe must have the highest average challenge score.  (See rule 10.)
9) The prize for each challenge is 5 bonus points for each non-excluded tribe member (see rule 10.)  (This is based on a 100 point challenge.)
10) The lowest individual challenge score for each tribe will be dropped before the tribe average is calculated.  If the low score is 80 or better, the tribe member will still receive the bonus points (if his/her tribe wins).  If the low score is 79 or below, the tribe member is excluded from bonus points for that challenge. Tribe members who have scored below 70 will not receive bonus points even if they were not the lowest score.
11) In the event of a tie between two or more tribes, each tribe involved will receive the bonus points.
12) If one tribe wins on three consecutive challenges, the second place tribe will also win 5 bonus points in the same manner as if they had won.
13) If every member of a tribe passes a challenge with a 70% or higher, the tribe members will be awarded 3 bonus points each. (If this happens for the winning tribe, they will still only win 5 bonus points, not 8.)
14) Tribe members will not be allowed to sit by each other during challenges. (This keeps premeditated cheating down.)
15) Individual players who have a total score of 100% or higher going into the final are the Survivor Algebra winners and will receive a special prize... Immunity from the final challenge!
There is also a prize for the top score - a million dollars!  OK, I don't give away a million dollars...  But, I do give a prize.  I give the winner ten 100 Grand bars (get it?) and usually a book on success or personal finance.  Another idea is to give a Survivor bandana that you can buy at  or maybe a movie gift card.  I've been surprised at how much being the winner has meant to my students -- they get really excited about it!
16) PLAY FAIR!  No fair telling another team false info so they bomb their challenge!  This will be considered cheating.
17) Tribes are encouraged to interact and help each other… The main goal of the game is for EVERYONE to kill on the challenges!  Then everyone is a winner!
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