Domino – A Simple Mathematical Game With Endless Possibilities


Domino, as in the popular pizza chain, is a simple yet powerful metaphor for how one event can trigger other events to fall like dominoes. The chain effect is a well-known principle in politics, economics, science and everyday life.

Domino is also a word that has been used in several games, including the traditional dominoes, which are flat, thumb-sized rectangular blocks bearing from one to six pips or dots on each end. The matching of dominoes by their ends and the laying down of these pieces in lines and angular patterns form the basis for many games played with dominoes. The game is traditionally played on a table with the dominoes standing up side-by-side.

The word has a long history of use in both English and French. The English word came first, appearing in 1750; the French word was coined later, around 1800. Both words may have been derived from an earlier sense of domino, which denoted a long hooded cloak worn with a mask at a masquerade or carnival festival. In English, the word also referred to a priest’s black domino contrasted with his white surplice.

Using Domino Art

Teachers can use the game of domino to help students understand a number of important mathematics concepts. For example, if a domino has four dots on one end and two dots on the other, the class can count the total number of dots and name an addition equation based on the fact that 4 + 2 = 6. This lesson demonstrates the commutative property of addition. It also helps bridge the transition from using moveable manipulatives to writing addition equations and using only symbolic representations of numbers and equations.

Domino Design

The design possibilities for domino art are endless – from straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures, stacked walls and even 3D structures like towers and pyramids. Depending on the complexity of the structure, the size and number of dominos needed will vary, but a general rule is to start with a larger piece that can be supported by other dominoes as the builder progresses. This gives the artist an idea of how to place the remaining dominoes and create a complete design.

A domino designer such as Hevesh builds each section of her designs in advance to ensure it will work correctly. Taking advantage of the symmetry and repetition of the domino design, she often films these test versions in slow motion to make precise corrections when necessary. Hevesh then builds her designs, starting with the largest 3-D sections and working her way down to the smallest, flat arrangements.

As a longtime pantster who does not create detailed outlines or plot ahead of time, Hevesh finds that when she writes a scene that does not lead naturally to the scenes that follow it, she can use the image of a domino to weed out unnecessary or repetitive scenes. She explains that each scene domino can be thought of as an element that advances the storyline, but that by itself it is ineffective. However, when placed in the correct order with the other scene dominoes, it has a dramatic impact.