I did a little follow-up to our first foray into dominoes. I first checked from the library all the books I could find on dominoes.
Domino Addition by Lynette Long is a picture book about basic math with dominoes. Dominoes has had a long tradition of being used for math, especially because of its usefulness in subitizing. That was actually a new term for me until last year when Biggie’s first grade class began doing some components of Singapore math; subitizing is being able to recognize quickly visual quantities.
Domino Addition was too easy for Biggie, and I didn’t want to ruin the fun in dominoes by having him do math drills from them. Fortunately, the actual game of dominoes is intrinsically educational. Unfortunately, neither of us knew how to play. But we had books for that:
Dominoes (Games Around the World) by Elizabeth Dana Jaffe was the simpler of the two, so I basically handed it to Biggie and said, “Read this, and teach me how to play dominoes.” We first played block-dominoes:
As you can see, it involves matching patterns and adding up scores. It was a good practice of mental math. As with all games, there’s also latent lessons in taking turns, following rules, good sportsmanship, strategizing, and so on. We then tried a variation called draw-dominoes, which we realized we could only do with a double six deck (we had a partial double nine deck). As a result, Biggie had to lay out the patterned deck, which he did from an image reference in the book:
Again, lessons on noticing details and patterns and patience.
We also took a look at Dominoes Around the World by Mary D. Lankford, which had an almost overwhelming number of variations on the game. It also had a few solitaire versions of domino games, a few math puzzles, and a recipe for making dominoes with graham crackers. Ideas, ideas, ideas.
Two more books:
Toppling by Sally Murphy is a fictional story about a fifth-grade boy obsessed with domino toppling whose best friend gets diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, it’s written in poetic verse. Biggie read it in one sitting, said he liked it, and we didn’t talk much more about it. I’d like to get him more into poetry, and this was a baby step towards that.
Towing Icebergs, Falling Dominoes, and Other Adventures in Applied Mathematics by Robert B. Banks is a whimsical consideration of mathematical problems evident every day in the world around us. It demands a good working knowledge of trigonometry and calculus, so it was a little out of my rusty reach, let alone Biggie’s. I did try to work through the chapter about dominoes, however, and found it fascinating. Banks calculates the velocity of the falling dominoes in a domino show and demonstrates how, mathematically, it is analogous to water waves and tsunamis. He also cites a better mathematical model in the _American Journal of Physics_1.
Maybe later. Lots of other bread crumbs to follow for the moment.
- Shaw, E.E. (1978). “Mechanics of a chain of dominoes.” American Journal of Physics. 46:640-42. ↩