Configurations Game

This set of fifteen puzzles was developed by Professor Harold L. Dorwart of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. They are explained in a 1969 edition of an instruction book first written by Dorwart in 1967, CONFIGURATIONS: Number Puzzles and Patterns For All Ages (New Haven: Autotelic Instructional Materials Publishers). On the contents page of the instruction book Dorwart writes that puzzles were designed to accompany his book The Geometry of Incidence (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966). However, he notes that the puzzles “are self-contained and can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in learning why mathematicians are sometimes called `makers of patterns’.”
The kit was sold in a blue plastic box. It includes five sets of plastic numerals (0 through 9) and ten puzzle boards. Eight blue boards show geometric diagrams labeled with various names of the form n3, where n is one of the numbers 7 through 10. Two red boards are labeled CONFIGURATIONS Puzzle Board, one containing Columns 1 to 7 and the other columns 8 to 10. The kit also includes the instruction book.
On page one of the instruction book, one learns that the symbol 73 represents “a geometrical figure–called a configuration–consisting of seven points and seven lines, with each line containing exactly 3 points of the configuration, and with exactly three lines of the configuration passing through each point.” Any nk configuration can be represented by a table with n columns representing the n lines and k rows, so the k numbers, which come from 1 to n, entered in a column represent the k points on the line.
The fifteen labels and diagrams shown on the blue boards represent puzzles based on one 73 configuration, one 83 configuration, three different 93 configurations, and ten different 103 configurations. The actual geometry of these diagrams is not relevant to the puzzles, the object of which is to determine that a particular configuration is possible by making a table for it on the red boards and then using the plastic numerals on a blue board to get a visual representation of it.
Over the years the name and location of the distributor of Configurations changed, although the phrase “Games For Thinkers” has been associated with it from the start. Price lists in the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletters (part of the documentation in accession 317891) indicate that at first the set of puzzles was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF in New Haven, Connecticut, and sold for $4.50. In 1970 the price was raised to $5.50 and in 1971 the game was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF through Maple Packers in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. A firm called Learning Game Associates of Ann Arbor later took over distribution 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 1969
Dorwart, Harold L.
Learning Games Associates
place made
United States: Michigan, Ann Arbor
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 2.5 cm x 15.25 cm x 12.5 cm; 31/32 in x 6 in x 4 29/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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