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By Sarah J. Greenwald, Jill E. Thomley

The Encyclopedia of arithmetic and Society

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Made You Look—How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know. Toronto: Annick Press, 2003. Kotabe, Masaki, and Kristiaan Helsen. Global Marketing Management. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004. Laermer, Richard, and Mark Simmons. Punk Marketing. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Murray, David, Joel Schwartz, and S. Robert Lichter. Ain’t Necessarily So: How the Media Remake Our Picture of Reality. New York: Penguin, 2002. Russell, J. Thomas, and W. Ronald Lane. Kleppner’s Advertising Procedure. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Although there are hundreds of variations, the general idea is: (1) stones or seeds are placed in pits laid out with two to four rows and several pits per row; (2) players collect the seeds from one pit and “sow” them one at a time into other pits around the board; (3) under some circumstances, the player picks up the seeds from the final pit and continues sowing those seeds; (4) when the move ends, the player will, in some cases, capture seeds from his or her opponent. These games generally involve a substantial amount of counting, adding, and subtracting (for example, to determine where the final seed will land), as well as consideration of multiple possibilities, analysis to calculate where an opponent can move afterward, strategy, and logic.

This artwork of the Chokwe is strongly connected to this mathematical idea, and was being investigated by the Chokwe artists about the same time that the idea was first studied by European mathematicians in the mid-eighteenth century. The geometric patterns of central Africa extend to include fractal designs. Fractals are a mathematical structure that can be viewed as a repetition of the same shapes at many different sizes or scales. For example, trees have branches, each with smaller branches, and then even smaller branches.

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