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Let’s Play Mancala

What’s your strategy to win at Mancala? Give this ancient Ghanaian game a contemporary twist! Make your own set with Crayola® Model Magic.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Mancala is an ancient African game, often played with beans or beads. Did you know that it is considered to be the world’s oldest game? Historians believe it started in Ghana, where the game is called Wari. Variations of Mancala are played around the world. To successfully play this game, players must use strategy and counting. Invite small groups of students to investigate the history of this ancient game and how it is played. Then teams will create a game. The version described in the steps below is made with paper cups instead of ivory, but the rules are still the same!
    2. Ask students to cover their work area with recycled newspaper. Form Crayola Model Magic into 48 pebble-like shapes, making 24 in each of two colors. Use the Model Magic primary colors or create original own hues. Just rub color from a Crayola Washable Marker into white modeling compound and knead. Continue adding color to get the shade desired. To give pebbles more weight and texture, mix in colored sand. Air-dry the pebbles overnight.
    3. Use Crayola Scissors to cut off the tops of 14 small paper cups. Use your imagination and Crayola Tempera Paint to color each cup. Paint a shoe box lid, too. Air-dry thoroughly.
    4. With Crayola School Glue, attach two rows of six painted cups to the box lid. Glue another cup to each end of the lid. These cups are known as kalahas.
    5. To play, each player places four Model Magic pebbles in each of the six cups on her or his side. Let the games begin!
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Students sketch a world map and identify the location of Ghana, the home country of Mancala. Students identify the capital of Ghana and investigate the people, culture, climate, and economy.

    There are many variations of the game of Mancala. Students investigate these and collaborate to create a new variation of the game. Sketch out the look of the game board and write rules in your own words.

    Set up a Mancala tournament! Encourage all students to participate. Keep track of the winners of the each stage of the tournament.

    Uncover other ancient games that are still played today. Where and when were they first played?

    Students bring in present-day games that they may play at home. Organize a game day for students to experience the variety of games. Which are strategy games? What makes a strategy game? Encourage students to collaborate to create a new, original strategy game. What will it be named? What will the game board look like? What will the rules be? About how long will it take to play a round?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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