Ancient Board Game "Go"

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT apply mathematical practices, strategies, and reasoning skills as they play "Go".

Big Idea

This ancient board game requires students to use strategy, reasoning, and problem solving. This is a fun and interactive way for students to stretch their minds and practice the mathematical practices they have developed this year.

Guest Speaker/Community Engagement

30 minutes

The game "Go" is very popular with some students in my class.  Throughout the year, they shared about their interest in this ancient board game.  The game requires students to use mathematical reasoning, strategy, and problem solving. 

Their excitement about the game led me to reach out to one of my parents to learn more.   I invited the parent to come in and introduce the game to our classroom community.

Some Common Questions about Go - provided by Mr. B.

Why do we call it Go? Go, is the name of a board game.  The name is shorted from the Japanese term, "Igo" which means "surrounding board game".  That in turn is a translation of the Chinese word, "weigi," which also means "the surrounding game".  Go is popular in Korea as well, where they call it "baduk," meaning "the pebble game."

Who invented Go? No one knows- as the game is over 4,000 years old by some estimates.  Some think it derived from astrology, or even that it evolved from a method of fortune telling.  There is a folk tale that says it was invented by a mathematician who was hired by an emperor to invent a game to help teach his son how to command an army.  

The American Go Association  is a great resource for learning more about the game.

This trailer of a documentary about Go, "The Surrounding Game" is another informative resource. 

You can also Play Go with this interactive website.

Lessons Learned From the Game Go

10 minutes

At the end of the time with our Sensi (guest speaker/instructor). I ask the students to summarize their experience with the top 10 lessons they learned while learning to play go.

1. It is fun to help others learn something new.

2. Take your time - don't make a move until you consider all the options. 

3. Play offense and defense at the same time (think about what you are doing and what the opponent is doing, you can't just think about the one move you are making, you have to think about the whole game board).

4. This game is fun and strategic (like sports).

5. When you extend your stones, it makes the game more challenging.

6. It is possible to capture a whole group of stones.

7. There are many versions that you can play, it is important that you know which game you're playing when you start.

8. Use different techniques/ strategies.

9. Different leveled players can start with point advantages to help make it a more evenly leveled game.

10. You can learn a lot from your friends when you share ideas.

These top 10 lessons have a strong connection to the mathematical practices we incorporate into the daily math lessons.  This reflection showed me the true value of adding variety, challenges, and games into math.

Play "The Capture Game"

30 minutes

There are many versions of the game Go.  For this class, students learned the very basics. "Capturing" They played with a 9 x 9 game board.   


  • Game Board
  • Black Stones
  • White Stones


The goal of the game is to surround the opponents territory.

Territory (the intersecting lines around a stone).

How to Play:

There are very complicated rules that go along with the various types of games that you can play for GO.  Here, I will explain the basics.

• Each time a stone is placed on an intersection, it gains possession of a set amount of territories (4 if it is on an intersection in the middle of the board, 3 if it is on an edge, 2 if in a corner)

• If two of the same color stones are placed next to each other (but not diagnoal) this is called extending the territory.  These stones act as one stone and therefore the number of territories is increased.  

• The object of the game is to surround a stone and capture it.  This is done my blocking all of its possibilities of expanding and gaining all of its territories.

Moving Forward

The students develop a quick fascination with the game Go.  After playing for a short time, they were able to pick up on the game very quickly.  

I will continue to use the game during down time and as a morning warm-up because it really gets the students thinking strategically, flexibly, and creatively. The game also builds teamwork and collaboration.

I also create a Go game board for the SMARTBoard, to allow students to play as groups in order to develop strategies.  In doing so, students improve their ability to articulate the moves they make and their reasons for doing so.