Pattern recognition competition

Set is a simple game in a class by itself. You get a deck of cards with colored symbols. These are laid out, face up. To play the game you need to organize the symbols into sets of three “un-alikes” — but they can be grouped in more ways than one. Many more ways. Everyone else is trying to group them into sets faster than you. This game exercises a unique part of your brain that few other activities do. Half math, half intuition, all concentration. It’s fun, loud, fast moving, and very challenging to do well, yet easy enough for small kids to join in meaningfully (that is, do better than you). After several years of playing the game, here is what I’ve observed:

1) It can’t be explained; it has to be shown.
2) Some folks are more gifted than others at finding patterns fast.
3) But *everyone* improves, often within the span of a game.

I hear that many schools use this game to teach sets and logic in math class, and that’s great. We use it as a raucous parlor game. Like the game Go, Set possess the kind of simplicity which keeps expanding, never growing old. And as far as games go these days, it’s cheap.

-- KK 12/9/17

(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2005 — editors)