Teaching Methodology


This page is written for persons familiar with Bridge. It may have little to offer the student.

Build a Scaffold

Terence Li, CBE alumnus with a M.A. in teaching from Stanford, advised us that teaching complex ideas requires the building of a figurative scaffold. HandzTM  does this by having players expose distribution and strength of their hands. With this knowledge, players learn to judge a reasonable contract level and strain. Using the same information, they learn to declare and defend, planning strategy from trick one.


Many bridge teachers have asked for some methodology or guidelines for providing instruction to new Handz players. Here is a brief, 4-page document that shares some of our experience and intentions.

Teaching Guidelines


To teach anything, one needs to first develop the students’ interest. HandzTM achieves this by making it as simple as possible to start playing. To that end, conventional bidding has been stripped from the game until the rules and scoring are understood.
Interest = fun.


To maintain interest in a new subject, the pace must be right for the student. When learning  HandzTM, the students control the pace at which they advance. Having a good time with Level 2? Then keep playing there until ready to move on.

Instructors Can Know Too Much

It is often difficult for an instructor to see a student’s blind spots. Though the words we use to explain may be exact and accurate, they may require a leap of knowledge that the student cannot make and that the instructor cannot perceive. HandzTM moves in small steps that do not conflate bidding, strategy, or abstraction. See “Teaching Guidelines,” above.

Teaching Strategies

Players are invited to improve their skills with various play tips, called “Tipz.” These are not required to advance from level to level, but the competitive player will find them easy to follow and effect for winning. The second half of the Rules booklet contains a section we call Tipz. These are play strategies developed for HandzTM that are not entirely applicable to bridge. However, the deductions encouraged in Tipz are intended to help students imagine the ways that distributions can achieve success.

Please feel free to leave comments.

18 thoughts on “Teaching Methodology

    • We are very interested in helping you employ the game in the great city of Boston1 (where I am secretly from). It sounds as though you have three boys who might not always have a fourth. Handz is a game that can be played with 3 players and the individual (cutthroat) strategies are quite intricate and amusing. I am going to send you a separate email to expand our conversation.

  1. I have four granddaughters ranging in age from 11 to 13 who I would love to introduce to the game of bridge. Handz sounds perfect though I would want someone other than myself to get them started. Do you know any teachers in Houston, TX using the program?

  2. Hi Barbara,

    We do not know of teachers in Houston. But children 11 to 13 can learn the game without a teacher. It is no more difficult to learn from reading the instruction than many other games on the market such as Monopoly. I will send a separate email with information about how to get a copy.

  3. I belong to a duplicate club in Friday Harbor, WA and we are looking to develop a teaching class for young people. HANDZ sounds like a good method, where can we get the materials? Is there a fee?

  4. As a former HS math and bridge teacher, I have been approached to help with an intergenerational program in a community school. I have read thru your material and am, of course, impressed. As a long time duplicate player my instinct is to skip over levels 1 & 2 and move into level 3 and higher from the start.
    I suspect this may be unwise. Can you please comment, since I don’t want to mess this up.
    Scott Glaspey

    • We have found that depending on the age of the children and their level of intellectual ability, many children move through levels 1 &2 quickly. The same is true of 3. But the idea here is to let the kids make the decisions. It is sort of like a video game where they can move to the next level as quickly as they wish. Level 1 is about learning to evaluate hand strength, the concept of a trick and following suit. Also, they learn the value of the “super suit.” While I will not tell you to not to skip the levels, you can probably get precocious kids to level 3 in one session. But we try to make level 1 simple so that they can start playing and having fun right away.

    • Hi Scott,
      I want to add a comment to help you decide to skip the first two levels, which I believe you can easily do. The purpose of the first level, using pluses (+) and minuses (–) to indicated hand strength is to insure the new players not associate high-card points (hand evaluation) with scoring, affecting the play. I have found that students confuse 4 points for an ace with 30 points per trick. Players who grapple with trying to decide if a hand is “above average” are more likely to warm to the precision of point count. At least, that is our theory.

  5. I’ve been teaching Handz in a San Francisco school classroom of 3rd to 8th graders. They’re having a lot of fun trying to take LOTS OF TRICKS! I hear comments like: “I’ll bet we can take more tricks than our opponents!” or “they can’t possibly take as many as they say they can, so let’s DOUBLE them!”

    I use the vocabulary “Super Suit” or “No Super Suit” instead of “Trump” or “No Trump.” I think this makes it more exciting and also more accessible. It’ll be easy to introduce the word trump when they get to bridge or a higher Handz level.

    Another thing the kids like is the description of how to arrange their cards after tricks are won or lost: standing up if we won (we are so proud) or lying down if we lost (we are so sad). Fun for the teacher too! The kids catch on in a nano-second.

  6. I use the term “magical power” when describing the trump suit.
    I tell my grandsons “You get to compete to choose which suit has the magical
    power over the other suits.” They like sports, so when we are playing a bridge hand
    I like to say things like, “Isn’t it fun to see the tiny three of spades (which is
    trump) win against the ginormous king of hearts?” Or “Don’t take too long to
    decide what card to play because the time clock is ticking.”

    • I love that: “magical power!” Thanks for the great tips.

      I tell the kids they can communicate with their partners, not in spoken words, but in “very, very special codes and messages …” Mysterious and fun.

  7. I also tell my grandkids that bridge is a “Code Speak”. I guess
    one could dramatize that with spy costumes or whatever? Sunglasses?
    Fake phones?
    Maybe questions like, “Who is your favorite spy in the Harry Potter
    books?” would get them interested.
    But the idea is that we do not use words, but symbols to
    communicate with our partner is on of the basics, isn’t it?

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