Education → Portuguese.


Ouri project by Miceu Tavares, Portugal

Mancala games are often considered a valuable teaching tool in the education of children and adults.

The Bohnenspiel was already used in adult pedagogics by game pastor Fritz Jahn in the 1910s. Recently, the effects of playing mancala have been extensively researched in studies on human memory, problem solving and human development by the Dutch psychologist Alexander Johan de Voogt and the Swiss psychologist Jean Retschitzki (President of the Swiss Society of Psychology 1998-2003).

School oware competition malgrat3

Aualé competition. Malgrat de Mar, Catalonia (March 12, 2000)

Many hundreds of schools in Andorra, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the USA organize mancala projects and sponsor tournaments to teach their children mathematical skills and intercultural awareness. The largest school tournaments in Europe were in Toulouse, France (1998 - 240 participants), Andorra (2007 - 499 participants / 7 schools), Mataro, Spain (2009 - 810 participants / 18 schools) and Covilhã, Portugal (2009 - 1,204 participants / 279 schools). Toguz Kumalak is a recognized sport in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyztan and dozens of schools send their teams to major national and international youth competitions.

For children weak in mathematics and lacking concentration, Ali Guli Mane is a traditional antidote.

Craft Revival Trust (India)

Educational Values


School project of the Regionale Schule Niederzissen, Germany (May 2008)

Character Formation

Mancala games teach patience. They offer a chance to easily see how one can improve with practice, and so helps to learn that working at something pays dividends. The games also teach direction following, to abide to rules, to play fair and to cope with defeats. They can help with face-to-face social interaction, cooperation and competition, thus improving social abilities. Their multicultural background works against racist attitudes and teaches openmindedness. They may also increase the awareness of and respect towards the own cultural heritage amongst players in Africa and Asia.

Cognitive Skills

Mancala games improve observation skills. Players need to develop special cognitive skills to distinguish good moves from bad ones and favorable board positions from disadvantageous ones. They are exercices, which strengthen memory and concentration.

Evaluating the Logic of Arguments

Mancala games teach to think analytically, since players must learn to plan and develop strategies. To be successful one has to foresee what will happen several moves in advance. The game forces the players to anticipate their opponent's next moves. They have to put themselves in the position of someone else, otherwise they can be beaten very easily.

Mathematical Insight

Mancala games help with mathematical thinking as one has to keep track of the number of stones in each hole. They help with basic calculation skills, but also offer great challenges for mathematicians and computer scientists. One modern variation called Numercy was specifically designed to teach arithmetics in primary schools. Sungka and Kalah are used by schools in Chicago (Illinois, USA) to help children with dyscalculia.

Motor Skills

Playing mancala games may develop fine motor skills, which include visual tracking, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to manipulate small objects by transfering them in a process known as "sowing".


Children learn to design 3-D works of art from a 2 dimensional plan, painting skills, and color planning, when they create mancala boards. They will develop skills in papier-maché techniques and can be made aware of careers in art.

External Links

Lesson Plans

School Projects



Kalah Recognized as Valuable Educational Aid - 350 Students Participate in Tournament: Kalah Sweeps Coolidge School. In: Melrose Free Press December 19, 1963.
De La Cruz, R. E., Cage, C. E. & Lian, M.-G. J. 
Let's Play Mancala and Sungka: Learning Math and Social Skills Through Ancient Multicultural Games. In: Teaching Exceptional Children 2000; 32 (3): 38-42.
Gobet, F., Retschitzki, J. & Voogt, A. J. de. (Ed.)
Moves in Mind: The Psychology of Board Games. Psychology Press, Hove (UK) 2004.
Jahn, F.
Beschäftigungs- und Gesellschaftsspiele als wichtige Erziehungsmittel in Anstalten, Kolonien und Familien (Vortrag). Züllchower Anstalten, Züllchow near Stettin (Germany) 1911.
Jahn, F.
Die Bedeutung des Spiels für unsere lieben Feldgrauen in gesunden und kranken Tagen. In: Das Rote Kreuz (Hohenlychen) 1915 (9).
Jahn, F.
Die Pflege des Spiels in Krieg und Frieden als Aufgabe des Vaterländischen Frauen-Vereins. Sittenfeld, Berlin (Germany) 1916.
Kakashev, K. T.
Toguz Kumalak kak Uchebnaya Distsiplina v Shkolye. In: Kakashev, K. T. Puti Povisheniya Kachestva Podgotovki Spetsialistov dlya Sistemi Obrazovaniya (Materiali Altinsarinskikh Ped. Steniye). Kostanay (Kazakhstan) 2006, 454-456.
Klobah, M.
Sowing the Seeds of Knowledge in Children's Literature: Sociocultural Values in J. O. de Graft Hanson's The Golden Oware Counters. In: Children's Literature Association Quarterly 2005; 30 (2): 152-163.
Powell, A. B. & Temple, O. L.
Seeding Ethnomathematics with Oware: Sankofa. In: Teaching Children Mathematics 2002; 7 (6): 369-375.
Retschitzki, J., Keller, B., & Loesch-Berger, M.-C.
L'Influence du Matériel et du Niveau des Joueurs sur la Rétention de Configurations du Jeu d'Awélé. In: Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive 1984 (4); 4: 335-361.
Retschitzki, J., Loesch-Berger, M.-C., Gut, U. & Brülhart, M.-L.
Les Relations entre l'Evolution Cognitive et la Force au Jeu d'Awele chez les Baoules de Côte d'Ivoire (Bulletin de Recherche No 52). Psychologisches Institut Universität Freiburg, Fribourg / Freiburg (Switzerland) April 1985.
Retschitzki, J., N'Guessan Assandé & Loesch-Berger, M.-C.
Etude Cognitive et Génétique des Stratégies des Joueurs d’Awélé. Exposé présenté au "Eighth Biennial Meeting of ISSBD", Tours (France) July 1985.
Retschitzki, J., N'Guessan Assandé & Loesch-Berger, M.-C.
Etude Cognitive et Génétique des Styles des Joueurs d'Awélé. In: Archives des Psychologies 1986 (211); 54: 307-340.
Retschitzki, J.
L'Apprentisage des Stratégies dans le Jeu d’Awélé (Bulletin de Recherche No 59). Psychologisches Institut Universität Freiburg, Fribourg / Freiburg (Switzerland) June 1986.
Retschitzki, J.
L'Apprentisage des Stratégies dans le Jeu d'Awélé. In: Bureau, N. & de Saivre, D. Apprentisage et Cultures: Les Manières d'Apprendre. Colloque de Cerisy, Cerisy (France) 1987, 188-205.
Retschitzki, J.
Evidence of Formal Thinking in Baoule Awele Players. In: Keats, D. M., Murro, D. & Mann, L. (Ed.). Heterogenity in Cross-cultural Psychology. Swets Zeitlinger, Amsterdam (Netherlands) 1989: 234-242.
Retschitzki, J.
Stratégies des Joueurs d'Awélé. Édition L'Harmattan, Paris (France) 1990.
Retschitzki, J.
Strategies of Expert Awele Players. In: N. Neuwahl (Ed.). Proceedings of the International Colloquium "Board Games in Academia III". Florence (Italy) 2000, 84-94.
Retschitzki, J. & Haddad-Zubel, R. (Ed.)
Step by Step: Proceedings of the 4th Colloquium - Board Games in Academia. Academic Press Fribourg, Freiburg (Switzerland) 2002.
Retschitzki, J.
The Use of Pit-and-Pebble Games in Education: Its Benifits and Limits [Abstract]. In: Colloquium XI (Book of Abstracts)], Museum of Science / University of Lisbon 23-26 April 2008.
Retschitzki, J. & & Wicht, C.
Plaidoyer Pour l’Exploitation Didactique des Jeux de Semailles. In: Carrefours de l’Éducation 2008; 26: 147-163.
Voogt, A. J. de. 
Limits of the Mind: Towards a Characterisation of Bao Mastership. CNWS Publications, Leiden (Netherlands) 1995.
Voogt, A. J. de
Indigenous Problem-solving and Western Methodology: The Case of Bao. In: IK Monitor 1996; 4 (3).
Voogt, A. J. de.
Reproducing Board Game Positions: Western Chess and African Bao. In: Swiss Journal of Psychology 2002; 61 (4): 221-233.
Voogt, A. J. de (Ed.)
A Question of Excellence: A Century of African Masters. Africa World Press, Trenton NJ (USA) 2005.


© Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.

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