Modern dominoes are believed to have originated in China in the 12th century. The numbers of dots in a standard double-six domino set represent all the rolls of two six-sided dice plus seven extra tiles representing "blanks" and the rolls of a single die.
The double-six sets are the most common sets used in elementary classrooms while double nine and double twelve sets are useful for larger groups or players with higher levels of strategy and problem solving skills. Sets with each number of dots in a different color can also help younger players.
Classroom variations on this classic game can be used individually, with a partner, or in small groups. They can also be developed into a learning center or station. Using dominoes encourages practice counting and recognizing patterns. It can also be an enjoyable way to reinforce noting details and matching attributes.
The pieces are oblong tiles with a plain back side. The front is divided into two equal parts, each of which has a number of dots or a blank space representing zero.
Basic Game Rules
Before you begin:
Although these are the basic rules, there are many different variations that can be played with dominoes. Before play begins those participating in the game should agree to the rules to be followed.
Dominoes should be placed face down on the playing surface and shuffled so that no one knows which tile is where. Each player draws 7 tiles from the pile, placing them in front of himself or herself so that other players cannot see their value. This is the player’s “hand”.
To begin play:
The person with the highest double (a domino with same number of dots on each end) in their hand goes first. That person puts the highest double face up on the playing surface.
The next player places a matching domino on one end or side of the first domino. To match, the number of dots on one end of new player’s domino must be the same as the domino in play. If they cannot play a tile they must draw one from the pile and then play it or pass (lose their turn). Note: In some games the player must keep drawing tiles until they can play one.
Play continues with each player placing a matching domino face up on an “open” end of the layout or passing. An end is open when it has no other tile connected to it. Often, a double is placed crossways in the layout, straddling the end of the tiles that it is connected to. This could allow play to continue off the three remaining ends of that double.
Play continues until one player is completely out of tiles or the game is blocked and no one else can play.
The player who goes out (or blocks all other players) is awarded the sum of all the dots on the remaining tiles of the other players.
If playing a game with several rounds, the players should agree on a specific number of rounds or a target score. The player with the highest point total at the end of the selected number of rounds or the first player to reach the target score is declared the winner.
Sets of dominoes can be made related to a theme, for example, using maple leaves instead of dots on tiles during an autumn unit or ants instead of dots during a study of insects. Instead of numbers of dots, domino tiles could be made using a variety of items from the theme. An example of this type of set would be tiles showing one circle, square, rectangle, triangle, oval, or diamond on each end to be used during a geometry unit.
There are many different domino games commercially available. Double six sets (28 tiles with ends ranging from a blank to six dots) are most commonly used in elementary classrooms while double nine and double twelve sets are useful for larger groups or players with higher levels of strategy and problem solving skills. Sets with each number of dots in a different color can also help younger players. Triominoes (tiles with three sides), Quadominoes (four playing sides), and Bendominoes (tiles with a curved shape) are similar games that can add variety and challenge to a domino center or station.