Make Your Own Mancala

Marbles Rings

Create and play your own mancala game — a simple two-person game that requires pits and pebbles. Mancala, from the Arabic word “naqala” which means “to move,” originated in Africa thousands of years ago. Move your pebbles around the pits and begin to recognize patterns and sequences. 

What You Need: 

  • An egg carton  
  • 2 small bowls  
  • 48 beads, buttons, or marbles 

What You Do: 

  1. Remove the top part of your egg carton, leaving only the egg cups portion.  These are your pits. 
  2. Place 4 beads in each pit. 
  3. Place a small bowl at either end of the egg carton. 
  4. Sit across from your partner and PLAY! 

How the Game is Played 

  1. The first player grabs all the beads from one egg pit on their side (the side closest to them) and drops them, one by one, into each pit around the egg carton, moving counterclockwise. If the player passes their mancala bowl, they place a bead in there.  
  2. Once the player doesn’t have any more beads in their hand, it’s the other person’s turn to do the same thing, starting on their side.  
  3. If a player has enough beads to reach their bowl, they place a bead in it. If the last bead a player drops is into their mancala bowl, they get to go again. If you pass the other player’s mancala bowl, do not place a bead in it.  
  4. The game ends when a player empties all of the beads from the egg pits on their side.  
  5. The player with the most beads in their mancala bowl at the end of the game is the winner. 

Words to Use: 

  • Pattern recognition: Being able to recognize a pattern. 
  • Mental math:  To think through math problems in your head. 
  • Strategy:  A planned series of actions for achieving something. 
  • Counterclockwise: The opposite direction as the hands of a clock move. 

What to talk about: 

  • Which pit is best to start the game with? Why?  
  • Why did you choose to start with that pit? (ask each time) 
  • What patterns do you notice? 
  • Do you think there is a trick to winning? How come? 

Change It Up:  

  • Decorate your egg carton.  
  • Bring it outside! Forget the egg carton, dig small pits in sand or dirt. 
  • Age it up: Work on your mental math.  Plan your moves in your head — no discussion allowed. 

Learning Connections:  

  • Collaboration  
  • Critical Thinking   
  • Social & Emotional Development   
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)   
  • Cultural Understanding   

Curriculum Connections:
NC Standard Course of Study
 

  • Math: NC.K.CC.4, NC.K.OA.1, NC.K.CC.1, NC.1.OA.9, NC.2.OA.2, NC.4.OA.5 
  • Social Studies: K.C.1, 1.C.1.1, 2.C.1.1, 5.C.1.2, 5.C.1.4 

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