The Most Dangerous Game

a/k/a Well How Do You Spend May?

A freshman collapsed motionless outside my door. Then he got up, laughed, and flashed a signal at a friend who groaned and fell down likewise. They both ran to class.


My freshmen came into first period flashing the same signals and I asked them, “Gawah?” They told me this:


  1. You flash the birdman at anyone sworn into the game. If the flashee makes unblocked eye contact with the flasher, he has to [insert penalty here, which penalty, for my boys, was falling down].
  2. You can make eye contact with the flasher so long as you throw up a block first.

I couldn’t help it. I asked them to swear me in.

Tactics, Takeaways, and Assorted Combat Notes

  • As a general rule, if someone calls out “Hey, Meyer!” from across the classroom/lawn/courtyard/whatever, it’s best to throw up a block before you look.
  • If you want someone to look at you from across the classroom/lawn/courtyard/whatever, don’t holler out the person’s name. Holler out, “POPSICLES!” or something equally nonsensical insteadLike “FIRE!” Wait. Not that..
  • These kids are smart. They cameraphoned themselves flashing the birdman and then sent media messages to their targets. Digital natives!
  • I flashed the birdman into PhotoBooth and loaded the picture into our math slides. Later I pressed a button on my remote and flashed ’em all at once!Okay, yeah, I know this is pedagogically terrible. This won’t become a habit, I promise.
  • Word got out to the freshman class that I was sworn in. This created a tricky imbalance since a lot more of them know of me than I know of them. This imbalance became most evident as I planned lessons that afternoon in a coffee shop seven miles away where a kid I’d never seen before walked by my window seat, stared at me oddly, and then flashed the birdman!I blocked.

The Tally

Yeah, I guess I did okay.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Couldn’t find a good place for these in the post:


    This is a really good game. You can measure the goodness of a game by dividing the relative fun value of the game by the sum of the game’s rules, game pieces, and setup instructions.

    Here, for example, you have a really fun game which has two rules, no setup, and no game pieces. Contrast that with Risk, which has infinite rules, setup instructions, and game pieces, but which still sells well because (I’m told) it is really really fun. (This has never been my experience with Risk.)


    Even though this birdman game is a really good game, it does you almost no good to initiate it with your students on Monday. Thursday was such a great day (seriously the kids freaked) because the students swore me into the game and not the other way around.


    Yo Steve, remember when I waited with a water pistol three hours outside our apartment for you and Jenn to get back from your anniversary date. I just worry that these kids don’t know who they’re dealing with, you know?

  2. Wait, did you really make it through all your summers at camp without playing this?

    As I recall there was also a penalty for throwing a block if the signal wasn’t being thrown at you. But that’s probably another idea best left for the kids to discover and not instruct them.

  3. folks the birdman has crossed the pacific…one particularly enraptured middle school creature spent all of a 70-minute moral education block shouting my name and flashing the birdman and then falling over himself with laughter.

    we go on a five day trip into china in ten days. smart money is on all the other teachers wanting to strangle me for riling the kids up with this game the whole time.