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5 Challenging Math Games


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Nine Men's Morris
You can use a dedicated board, like this one, to play Nine Men's Morris, or you can just sketch out a simple diagram.
You can use a dedicated board, like this one, to play Nine Men's Morris, or you can just sketch out a simple diagram.

This classic game originated in ancient Egypt and later spread to Greece and Ireland. The Vikings also played it and took it to other parts of Europe. It's known by other names, including Mill, Merel and in French, Jeu de Moulin. Players can use a dedicated board to play or just sketch a simple diagram. During the Renaissance, Nine Men's Morris players sometimes marked out huge diagrams on plazas and used girls and boys as counters, ordering them where to move.

The board has 24 connected points that form three concentric squares, with lines connecting the squares' sides. Each player starts with nine stones or counters. Players alternate laying down stones at any points they choose. Once all are laid down, they move stones along the lines. The object is to form "mills," which means three stones in a row. Creating a mill allows the player to take one of the opponent's stones. One player wins when the other cannot move, or when his or her opponent has fewer than three stones remaining.

For young players, Nine Men's Morris offers practice in counting, adding and subtracting. Adults might appreciate the complex mathematics and computing power needed to "solve" the game, or in other words, determine a game plan that results in at least a draw. A good strategy in Nine Men's Morris is to spread your counters on the board. Try to set up a situation where you can open and close a mill repeatedly by moving a single stone. This allows you to keep taking your opponent's pieces.