# The Center of Math Blog

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## Thursday, July 30, 2015

### Throwback Fact: Mancala

 An example of a modern Mancala board from EuropeSource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bao_europe.jpg
Many historians believe that Mancala is the oldest board game in existence. Since Mancala is one of our favorite games in the office we decided that for the throwback fact of the week we would take a look at Mancala.

Mancala is a/the term used to describe a collection of similar games, of which there are over 800 around the world. Some of the variations include Bao, which is played across the east coast of Africa, Oware, which is played in the Caribbean, and Kalah, which is the modern game played in the US and Europe, which we call Mancala. It is unclear exactly where Mancala originated but many historians believe it was in Africa where players used to carve holes in the ground and use pebbles to play.

 Bao players in Zanzibar  Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bao_players_in_stone_town_zanzibar.jpg
There are many different theories as to what the original purpose of the game was for ancient people. One theory is that it was a record keeping system used to manage debit and credits, which were represented by the two sides of the board. Another theory is that Mancala was a ritual at funerals, weddings and other ceremonies. It could also have just originated as a game, which is its main use now.

Whatever the origins of Mancala one thing is for sure, ancient people needed to count to play, just like we do now. Mancala is a great game for teaching kids how to count and work on strategic thinking skills as they age.

Tell us, what are some of your favorite board games?

Source: 1, 2, 3