Every spring, middle grades students and faculty experience one of our favorite times of the year – Minimester. During Minimester students break from their regular classes for a week and focus only on learning about areas of particular interest to them, with one workshop in the morning and another in the afternoon. In the workshop course Mahjong Master, my students had the opportunity to learn Chinese Mahjong, a game deeply ingrained in Asian culture and popular around the world.
On the first day of this workshop, students learned about what Mahjong is and the history of this age-old game. There are many theories regarding the origin of Mahjong. The most famous origin story is that the great Chinese philosopher Confucius developed the game in 500 B.C.E. In recent years, it has become more popular all over the world. Playing Mahjong demands judgment, strategy, intelligence, calculation, logical thinking and patience. It is often called the “game of a hundred intelligences” because it requires such concentration. Students in the workshop were all prepared to commit themselves to periods of thinking and concentration. In fact, this workshop was not only a mental challenge for our students, but also a language-learning opportunity for those studying Spanish at Avenues. The first lesson they had to complete was to recognize all the characters in Mahjong. After several rounds of character recognition games, students became pretty good at it. Next they learned the game’s rules, such as how to build a wall, how to break a wall, the order of drawing titles and how to get a winning hand.
By the third day, after several rounds of practice games, students could not only play Mahjong without a cheat sheet (which included all the English translations for the Mahjong titles), they’d also memorized the rules and scoring system. After everyone felt comfortable, we moved on to our table tournaments. Each student received a base of 20 chips. At the end of the Minimester week, whoever had the most chips in our workshop would be the 2018 Avenues Mahjong Master. This year, middle grades Chinese teacher Ms. Chien also joined the table tournaments, which made the tournaments more competitive. Students were very excited to get the opportunity to challenge teachers.
After three days table tournaments, we had our Mahjong Master. He is Aaron G., an 8th grader. He had been completely unfamiliar with Mahjong at the beginning of this workshop. However, after a whole week of practice, Aaron not only mastered Mahjong skills, he also memorized all the Chinese characters used in the game.
Congratulations to Aaron! We can’t wait to see who will become our Mahjong Master in 2019.
- 6th Grade
- 7th Grade
- 8th Grade
- Mandarin Chinese
- Middle Grades
- Middle Grades Program
- Upper Division