Queries ‘N Theories: The Game of Science & Language

This series of games introduced an approach to the scientific method that is based on linguistics. Queries ‘N Theories was developed by Layman E. Allen, Peter Kugel, and Joan Ross. Allen, of Yale University Law School, and Kugel, of MIT, had begun thinking about this game in 1965 while they were completing the design of the game ON-SETS (MA.335306) and Allen was director of the ALL (Accelerated Learning of Logic) Project that developed mathematical games under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Ross, of the University of Michigan Mental Health Research Institute, joined the team in 1967 and the game sold from about 1968.
The set includes 480 small colored chips, twelve mats, and one query marker. The set also includes an instruction book, QUERIES ‘N THEORIES: The Game of Science and Language (A Simulation of Scientific Method and Generative Grammars), written by Allen, Kugel, and Ross and published by WFF’ N PROOF Publishers in 1971. The term “generative grammar” in the subtitle, which is usually credited to linguist Noam Chomsky, refers to rules that allow one to decide precisely which strings of words form grammatically correct sentences. In Queries ‘N Theories one player, the “native,” secretly defines a language by listing rules to combine chips of various colors, in the way that ordinary languages have rules to describe how to combine differing parts of speech and types of phrases and clauses to produce sentences. The Queries ‘N Theories games have the other players ask the “native” questions in order to determine if a string of chips represents a sentence in that language.
The kit, which was sold in a yellow soft plastic case, also includes a sheet listing “GAMES for THINKERS” that were available from WFF ‘N PROOF Publishers and a postcard offering a free one-year subscription to the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletter.
In 1968 Allen moved from Yale to the University of Michigan with a joint appointment in the Law School and the Mental Health Research Institute, where he continued his work on instructional games. Over the years the name and location of the distributor of the Queries ‘N Theories changed, although the phrase “Games For Thinkers” has been associated with it from before Allen’s move to Ann Arbor. Price lists in the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletters (part of the documentation in accession 317891) indicate that at first the game was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF through Maple Packers in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, and sold for $8.75. A firm called Learning Games Associates of Ann Arbor later took over distribution of the game and donated this example to the Smithsonian in 1975. The Accelerated Learning Foundation of Fairfield, Iowa, then became the distributor.
Games For Thinkers Website.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1971
Allen, Layman E.
Ross, Joan
Kugel, Peter
Learning Games Associates
place made
United States: Michigan, Ann Arbor
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
wood (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 3.25 cm x 22 cm x 15 cm; 1 9/32 in x 8 21/32 in x 5 29/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Learning Games Associates
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Mathematical Recreations
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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