The Domino Effect

Domino is a tile-based game with many rules, scoring methods and strategies. Players draw dominoes for their hands, and the winner is the first player to make a play that covers the entire face of one of his tiles. In some games, players can earn bonus points for their winning dominoes by counting the pips on both ends of each double (for example, 4-4 counts as 8 points).

As each new player draws his hand of dominoes, there may be a number of extras left in the stock. This is called an overdraw, and it must be resolved before a new hand is drawn. If a player draws more tiles for his hand than he is entitled to, the players to his right take these extra dominoes without looking at them and return them to the stock before making another play. This process is repeated until all the extra dominoes are taken.

In the Domino Effect, we see how tiny actions can cause a massive outcome, like when a chain of dominoes is tipped just so and eventually topples over to reveal a giant artwork or portrait on the floor. The physics behind these mind-blowing displays is actually quite simple: Each domino has a high center of gravity, meaning that it needs only a small amount of force to start a chain reaction.

Using a similar concept, writers use the Domino Effect to describe how events build upon each other in a story. Each scene is a domino, and the overall plot builds in the same way as a domino cascade. Each scene is ineffective on its own, but if it connects to the rest of the story, the whole is greater than its parts.

The term domino derives from the Latin for “falling together,” reflecting the physics of the game. However, both the word and the game have an even older sense: a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade.

As the earliest dominoes were made of ebony blacks and ivory faces, it’s possible that this garment inspired both the name and the design for the domino pieces.

When Hevesh creates her mind-blowing domino installations, she follows a version of the engineering-design process. She begins each project by considering its theme or purpose, brainstorming images or words she wants to use and planning out how she will arrange the dominoes. Plans might include grids that form pictures, walls or 3-D structures like towers or pyramids.

Then, she matches up the domino pieces and places them end to end. They may choose to keep them in a straight line or snake them around the table, but they must connect each piece with the one that says START on its left side. On the right side of this first domino, there will be a question, definition or vocabulary term that students need to answer on their student answer sheet. After students have completed this review activity, they can begin making their plays.