Investigating Dominoes

Featured Topic: Using Domino Mats to Build Number Sense

Dominoes have become a staple in most primary classrooms. They build upon dice patterns and are often used to model decomposition of numbers, building student knowledge of addition facts. They are an excellent manipulative for primary students to use and these are some examples of how students might use dominoes in the math center.

The student needs some dominoes, counters and a domino mat. The student selects a domino and builds that domino on his/her domino mat. Next, the student counts the total number of dots on both sides of the domino and selects the correct number card to represent the total. The student may record this domino on the Domino Recording Sheet before clearing the mat, and choosing another domino.

Differentiation: Teachers may easily differentiate this activity by providing differentiated baggies of dominoes that effectively target the varied instructional levels of students in their classes. For example, an easy set may include dominoes with sums less than or equal to 6 while a challenging set may include dominoes with sums greater than 12.

Instructional Strategies: Read more about Using Domino Math Mats in the classroom to help students build number sense and learn fact families.

Domino Templates

Instructional Strategies: Read more about Using Domino Math Mats in the classroom to help students build number sense and learn fact families.

Math-Literature Connections

Dominoes Around the World by Mary D. Lankford discusses how domino games are played in different parts of the world. The book includes directions for each game as well as pictures of children playing the games. Introduce elementary students to more domino games by reading this book.

100 Days of Cool by Stuart J. Murphy

Four students think Mrs. Lopez is going to have them celebrate 100 days of cool, so they arrive the first day in wild outfits. The numberline countdown to the 100th day continues as they struggle to think up new "cool" outfits each day. After making it to the 100th day party, the students question what they'll do tomorrow now that the cool stuff is over.

  • See additional activities in the back of this book, as with all Stuart J. Murphy MathStart books or visit Stuart J. Murphy website to view suggested activities for his books.

Domino Trains

  • Consider using Murphy's Domino train idea to celebrate the 100th day of school. Students must make a domino train by placing dominoes end-to-end. The train must have exactly 100 pips or dots.
    • Download Domino Trains template for students to use to record their 100-dot trains. Students draw in the dots, then cut apart on the dotted lines and assemble to create long trains.
    • Younger students may record the number of dots beneath each domino and use calculators to verify the 100 dots answer to their long number sentence.
    • Teachers might create a class list of "different ways to make 100" by collecting student number sentences from their domino trains.
    • Challenge students to find the shortest train possible.

Domino Games

Try these domino games with students to improve math skills and number recognition. Encourage students to play these games at home with their families, using real dominoes or paper copies.

Domino Problem Solving

Domino Links

These sites provide additional domino activities for students.

  • Check out more domino games at Domino Plaza.
  • Find rules for more domino games complete with scoring examples at Domino-Games.
  • Domino Math uses dominoes to teach the commutative property. Be sure to actually have students turn them around so that they read the flip fact.

Guess the Domino Trick

Your older students (or their parents) will be amazed at your mathematical prowess as you execute this domino trick. You might want to have calculators on hand with the dominoes for your initial presentation, as the trick won't work if participant's mental math skills are weak. After that, students can try the trick on each other before using the trick at home with parents and siblings. Challenge middle schoolers to use algebra to explain how the trick works.

Dominoes as Art

Robert Bosch creates portraits using sets of dominoes. Students will enjoy this offbeat use of dominoes so plan to visit the site online to view some of Bosch's creations. Don't miss the section for educators where you may download pdf files should you decide to create your own portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Statue of Liberty or the Mona Lisa.

Visit the Domino Artwork website to view the portraits and see portraits created by school children using Bosch's PDF materials.