Culture Math
Time 30 minutes
Age 5 & up
Group Size 4 or more
Tags Game, Games, Native Americans,   more...
Thanksgiving Wampanoag

Can you master this traditional Native American game?

This activity introduces students to The Bowl Game, or “hubbub”, a traditional game played by the Wampanoag and other Native people all across America. In the Northeast United States, the game is sometimes called hubbub because early European settlers who witnessed it being played reported hearing players say “hub, hub, hub” over and over to distract and intimidate the other team. Try all of the winter thanksgiving activities, and you and your students can share in Wampanoag traditions and give thanks to the animals!


Hubbub can be played with any relatively flat 2-sided objects for the game pieces (pennies, buttons, small washers) or you can make your own from natural objects such as peach pits, nectarine pits or unshelled almonds. These game pieces are called “dice”. Before playing, the dice need to be decorated so that one side looks different from the other. Students can use markers, paint, masking tape with symbols, etc. Just be sure that they decorate the dice on only one side.

To keep score, players use “counting sticks”. Straws are great as counting sticks, but you can also use craft sticks (which won’t roll away), pencils, skewers, etc.


Suggested Materials

  • Large bowls or plastic containers (12″ – 15″ wide) (1 per team)
  • Pennies, buttons, washers or other small, flat, round objects (see Preparation) (75)
  • Drinking straws or craft sticks (500)
  • Markers
  • Tape

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your students if there are any games that their families play. Are there any games that their parents taught them, that they used to play when they were children? What kinds of games do your students think kids played 10 years ago? 50 years ago? 100 years ago? In this activity, kids will learn a game called “hubbub”, or “The Bowl Game”, that has been played for hundreds of years by Native American children all around the United States and is still played today.

The Challenge

Make and play your own Hubbub game.


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Divide your students into teams of 2 for this activity.
  2. Each team will need 1 bowl, 31 counting sticks and 5 pieces for “dice”. Teams should decorate their dice by drawing or painting on one side of each of the pennies, buttons, washers, peach pits—whatever objects you are using. Make sure that each team has 5 of the same object. Decorations can just be a color, or symbols, drawings, letters—anything that makes it easy to tell one side from the other undecorated side.
  3. Play the game according to the rules below. There are many ways to score hubbub—the rules below are just one example.

How to Play:

Students can either play this game in a bowl, or shake the dice in their hands and then toss them on a flat surface for scoring. Play can be between 2 children or 2 teams with members of each team taking turns. Put 5 dice in the bowl with all designs or all blanks facing up, and place the bowl on the ground or table between the 2 players. The counting sticks go beside the bowl. As long as a player scores, it is his or her turn. When she or he does not score, the other player takes a turn. If dice flip out of the bowl, start that turn again.

The score is kept with the counting sticks—each stick equals 1 point. When the game begins, there is a central pile of sticks. As players score, they remove the sticks they win from the pile and add them to their own pile. When there are no more sticks in the center, players count their sticks to determine the winner.


If all the blanks or all the designs come up = 3 points or counting sticks

If 4 match and 1 is different = 1 point or stick

If 2 or 3 match = 0 points

Part of the fun and the challenge of hubbub is to see if players can distract their opponents during their turn by making noise. Annawon Weeden, who played this game as a child suggests that opponents crow loudly while the opposition takes its turns.


Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

After each team has played once, gather your students together to talk about what they have discovered. Have they gotten comfortable with the point system? What ideas do they have for distracting their opponents? Do they play other games in which it is OK to purposefully distract each other?


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Have them return to playing the game. After playing a few times, they can switch partners if they would like to try playing with someone else.


  • Keep hubbub as a game to take out from time to time, or set up a round robin tournament.
  • Think of ways to improve focus during noisy times, such as playing games of memory or concentration.
  • Some other traditional scoring methods for hubbub:
    1. Using flat and round sticks (4 flat/craft sticks and 56 rounds/straws), and 6 dice, score this way:
    2. If all 6 dice are the same, take one flat stick and roll again.
    3. If you get all 6 the same again, take 2 flat sticks and roll again.
    4. If you get all 6 the same a third time, take 3 flat sticks and end your turn.
    5. If you toss 5 alike, take 3 round sticks and roll again.
    6. A second 5 alike, take 6 round sticks and roll again.
    7. A third consecutive 5 alike, take 1 flat stick and end your turn.
    8. If you toss less than 5 alike, take no sticks and pass your turn to your opponent.
    9. Continue until the last stick is taken. The person who takes the last stick gets to take 2 round sticks from their opponent’s pile.
    10. Score 1 point for every round stick, 3 points for every flat stick. The highest score wins.
  • Another variation includes the rule that the first person to get ALL the counting sticks wins. Once there are no more sticks in the center, players take sticks from their opponent, until one person has all the sticks. In this game, use 5 dice and 20 straws with this scoring method:
    1. If all the blanks or all the designs come up = 2 points or counting sticks
    2. If 2-3 match = 1 point
    3. If 4 match and 1 is different = 0 points
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