Pictured below is my new game of Mancala. It cost me $13 at Toyworld. After reading the history and rules of the game at Wikipedia, I couldn’t resist buying it. It is a very old game (at least 1300 years), but like most good games it has few rules and is easy to play. Note easy to play, not easy to win!


After a few games, I still couldn’t see any obvious strategy! So I searched the www and came upon Fritz Dooley’s Mancala Center. The optimum opening move is explained but despite a great deal of computer modelling, he concludes:

“We did not find a backward-induction sure-win strategy that resulted in such a quick, clear and decisive win that memorizing a series of plays several levels deep into the game would yield a practical way of consistently winning without having to apply soft strategy.  Thus, the relevance to a real player of our proof of mancala’s triviality is small.  In this regard, the triviality of mancala is more akin to that of chess than to that of tic-tac-toe.”


And so I will continue playing Mancala in search of winning strategies that have so far eluded me. Do you have any good strategies?


About webmaths

I have been teaching Mathematics in Victorian secondary schools for 30 years. I use the www to make my maths lessons better. I hope this blog will give other teachers some ideas to try in their own classes.
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3 Responses to Mancala

  1. Amanda says:

    I learned to play mancala in 7th grade math. My teacher had a great setup for the game. She traced poker chips on cardstock to form the board and then laminated it. When we finished our work early we could grab a card and a stack of poker chips and play with a friend. Every now and then a student could challenge her to a game, and there was a prize for the student if he or she beat the teacher. I loved that math class.

    Now that I am a teacher, I also use games with my students. However, since I teach English, most of my games are word games.

  2. webmaths says:

    Thanks for your interesting comment Amanda. Your 7 Maths teacher used the same method that I use in my classes. I do this because I think it is very important that students love Maths rather than forming negative attitudes towards the subject. I love word games too. I use these periodically to improve students’ vocabulary. I will do a post on this soon. Thanks for the idea Amanda….

  3. Megan says:

    They play this in Indonesia and call it ‘congklat’
    You can make your own using pebbles and egg cartons 🙂

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