# The Basics of Domino

Domino, a tile-based game that is as popular in schools as it is at home, offers students an opportunity to learn number patterns and equations, practice addition and subtraction, build vocabulary and social skills, and explore geometry. Students can use a large set of dominoes to affix to a whiteboard or document projector for a group lesson, or a regular set that can be stored in a bag or drawer for independent work.

The first domino set was probably made of bone or ivory, with black or white inlaid pips. Modern sets are typically made of polymer, although they can also be found in other materials such as wood (usually a light hardwood such as maple or beech), stone, ceramic clay, brass and pewter, marble, or even glass or crystal. A few traditional sets are still made of natural materials, such as ebony or other dark hardwood, with contrasting dots; these have an elegant look and feel more substantial than polymer sets.

In order for a domino to be effective, it must be “set up” properly, allowing the sequence of numbers to proceed at a constant rate without loss of energy. It must also be positioned so that it can be played off of the ends, or sides, of other dominoes. If this is done correctly, the result can be spectacular, forming lines of descending dots that look like a waterfall or a chain reaction, similar to the way a nerve impulse travels down an axon.

To play a domino game, a player draws a set of seven dominoes from the stock, or boneyard. The remaining tiles remain face down and are not used. Then the players take turns drawing dominoes from the stock until they have a double that can be played, called an “opening” double. After that, they can make plays on the ends of the doubles in their hand and off of the sides of other dominoes already on the table.

The basic rule in most domino games is that once a player has all of their tiles in play, they must “knock out” the opponent’s tiles by playing them. If a player cannot play a single tile, they are “out” of the game; in some games, this requires both partners to be out before the winning players are determined.

In a 1983 demonstration, University of British Columbia physicist Lorne Whitehead showed that dominoes can knock down objects one-and-a-half times their size. It is this extraordinary power that gives the game its name, but the domino effect can also be used to teach physics concepts such as force, acceleration, gravity and momentum. To illustrate the concept, a teacher can demonstrate how to knock down a series of dominoes by hand, or show a video of the same demonstration performed by University of Toronto physics professor Stephen Morris. This video helps students see how the forces acting on a domino are proportional to its length, and that they can be applied at any angle.

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