Mancala

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!

mancala

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.”

mancala2

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

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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’
    http://www.expat.or.id/info/congklak.html
    You can make your own using pebbles and egg cartons 🙂

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