Dominoes Can Be a Metaphor for Life

Dominoes are fun and educational, but they can also serve as a metaphor for life. They can be a reminder to always think about how your actions can affect others, like the domino effect. The term also refers to any sequence of events that create a chain reaction, such as an earthquake or the fall of a building. A simple action can have a huge impact, as illustrated by the domino effect of Admiral William H. McRaven, who told University of Texas graduates in 2014 to “make your bed every morning.”

A domino is a flat thumbsized rectangular block with one side bearing an arrangement of dots or pips and the other blank or identically patterned. A complete set consists of 28 such dominoes. The pips represent values ranging from one to six, similar to the dots on a die.

The word Domino was first used in English around 1750, although the playing piece had been in use for much longer. The word may have been derived from the French, where it originally denoted a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at carnival season or at a masquerade.

In the game of domino, players take turns laying down tiles, or bones, on a flat surface in front of them. The first bone laid by a player must match an end of another existing tile, known as a double. When a player cannot play a domino, they pass their turn to the next player.

Once a domino is played, it remains on the table until another player matches its end with an adjacent domino, or “knocks” the previously played domino off the board. A player then takes their turn again, unless they can’t play another domino. The game continues until one player “chips out” (plays their last domino).

Dominos are made of a variety of materials, but the most common are plastic, bone, and metal. Some sets are also made from other natural materials, such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl, or MOP) and ivory; a dark hardwood such as ebony; or even a solid stone such as marble. Natural materials tend to feel more substantial than their polymer counterparts and are more visually appealing.

Traditionally, dominoes were made of silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell, ivory, or bone with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted onto them. However, recent innovations in production have produced more durable and affordable sets from a wide range of materials, including synthetic resins. Some modern sets are manufactured from polymers such as melamine.

In addition to their entertainment value, dominoes are an excellent teaching tool for introducing basic mathematical concepts. For example, using a set of dominoes, students can demonstrate the commutative property of addition by choosing dominoes at random and writing the corresponding equation on a blank domino. In this way, the lesson is reinforced that adding two numbers has the same effect regardless of which domino is placed first.