Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

Learning Mathematics through Games

Academic journal article Australian Mathematics Teacher

Learning Mathematics through Games

Article excerpt


Children, and adults enjoy playing games. Way (2011) states that "experience tells us that games can be very productive learning activities". She also raises the following questions:

* What should teachers say when asked to educationally justify the use of games in mathematics lessons?

* Are some games better than others?

* What educational benefits are there to be gained from games?

When considering the use of games for teaching mathematics, educators should distinguish between an 'activity' and a 'game'. Gough (1999) states that "A 'game' needs to have two or more players, who take turns, each competing to achieve a 'winning' situation of some kind, each able to exercise some choice about how to move at any time through the playing". The key idea in this statement is that of 'choice'. In this sense, something like Snakes and Ladders is not a game because winning relies totally on chance. The players make no decisions, nor do they have to think further than counting. There is also no interaction between players, and nothing that one player does affects other players' turns in any way.


Building a set of pieces that share an attribute is a common feature of many classic games, such as Rummy, Mahjong, Rummi-kub, and even Connect Four. Iota is another example of these types of classic games, but, interestingly, it combines some of the features of two-dimensional dominoes, and crosswords. Players score points by adding matching cards to a vertical and horizontal grid.

Iota, as the ninth letter of the Greek letter, means an 'extremely small amount'. The Iota game is published in a surprisingly small tin, about the size of a Keens mustard tin, and contains a pack of special cards. The publishers say that Iota is "the great big game in the teeny-weeny tin

Iota is designed by Gene Mackles, and published by Gamewright (2012). In Europe, it is also known as Kwatro, and is published by White Goblin.

Set, and Qwirkle are two other games with a similar theme to Iota, but they use larger cards or special counters, and have different rules. Iota seems to be slightly more focused, and fortunately, easier to play, giving it an edge over its close relatives.


Iota uses a special pack of attribute cards. Each Iota card is either red, yellow, green, or blue; it shows either a circle, square, triangle, or a cross; and it is numbered 1, 2, 3, or 4. The complete set includes two wild cards, which are identical and blank. The 'tame' cards are unique from one another. That is, an Iota pack consists of 64 unique regular cards plus 2 wild cards.

Number of players

2 to 4.


Players aim to score the most points in a game by placing cards in a row or column, so that cards in a row or column all share one attribute.


Shuffle the cards, and deal 4 cards, face-down, to each player. Deal one card, face-up, in the middle of the table--the Starter. Place the remaining stock of undealt cards face-down at the side of the table.


Players takes turns, with turns passing clockwise around the table. In each turn a player either places or passes.

When a player places, the player puts 1, 2, 3 or 4 of his or her cards on the table, in a single line, fitting it beside one or more of the cards already played, according to the basic matching-rule, that rows or columns of adjacent cards must all share at least one attribute, or, must have no shared attribute. This is the fundamental match-or-not rule of Iota.

The player then records his or her score, and completes the turn by drawing as many cards as needed, from the remaining stock of unused cards (if any cards remain), so the player finishes the turn holding 4 cards (if possible).

When placing a card or cards, all cards placed must be part of a single straight line (horizontal or vertical), with at least one of the placed cards connecting (being horizontally or vertically adjacent) to one of the cards already placed in the grid in a previous turn. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.