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The Library Unbound: Milne Library News

Rithmo-mania: The Quest to Revive the Medieval Game Rithmomachia

by Sarah Rhodes on 2024-04-12T16:37:20-04:00 | 0 Comments

Have you ever heard of the game Rithmomachia? If you are a lucky student in one of Professor Toke Knudsen’s classes, you might have! Otherwise, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Huh?”

Rithmomachia is a game played by Medieval scholars and was used as an educational tool for arithmetic. One of our Milne Library Scholars, Emily Petramale, worked over the past year to recreate this board game.

Picture of Emily creating the display


On display on the third floor, one can see the fruits of Emily’s labor. Through collaboration with several individuals across campus, Emily was able to create a functional and beautiful board game. Professor Thomás Sakoulas and David Kenny, members of the Art Department, helped create the actual physical board and the pieces. Dr. Sarah Portway, an Assistant Professor in Fashion and Textiles, connected Emily to fellow students Manny Katz and Trey Pratt, who created the pouches that house the game pieces. Gianna Fonti, a student in Dr. Knudsen’s Mathematics for the Liberal Arts class, helped create the design on the game’s box. This collaboration and project in general were funded by a grant from the History of Mathematics Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America and by the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics.

Emily collaborated closely with Professor Knudsen throughout the 2023-2024 academic year on her project around the board game Rithmomachia. Together they developed a unit for the courses Mathematics for the Liberal Arts and History of Mathematics, which they subsequently taught in both classes. Students in these classes learned about the game's history and its relevance in modern-day classrooms. The students were then able to spend several class periods playing the game in groups. Initial feedback from the experience was that they enjoyed the game and that it was the first time they played any game in a math class!

Photo of Professor Knudsen and Emily near display


Emily’s project is not all fun and games (pun intended)! She and Dr. Knudsen are cowriting an article to be published in Convergence, an online peer-reviewed journal of the Mathematical Association of America. The article will explore the history and gameplaying of Rithmomachia and look at its use in the modern classroom.

To learn more about the game, or see what it looks like in person, check out the display on the third floor of Milne Library. It is located around the corner from the Alden Room. Congratulations to Emily on a project well done!

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