Dueling Dewey

by Jeff Burton

Jeff Burton is a graduate student in Educational Technology at San Diego State University. He is currently working as a GA with Pac Bell's Education First Initiative.


Instructional Objective The learners will be able to recognize the major subject areas defined by the Dewey Decimal System and categorize books appropriately. The competitive elements of the game will provide fun and challenge.

Learners/Context The learners are students required to learn basic library skills. This game is approriate for late elementary through middle school students. The game is designed to be played at home before or after a trip to the library to aide in finding and associating the Dewey number with subject categories.


Rationale A game is an appropriate format for this situation because it provides a simple method to reinforce the association between the Dewey Decimal System categories and actual books. Although basic library skills are necessary for continued learning, students do not always find the subject interesting. A card game is portable and easy to use. The rules are similar to other common card games making the learning curve very short. The rules of the game provide a competive content that can provide motivation and a break from more conventional studies.

Rules Two to four people may play at the same time.


The game is played in the following manner:


The object of the game is to be the first person to discard all of your cards. The dealer will go through the cards until he/she finds a category card. This card will be placed face up on the table to start the first category. The remainder of the cards will then be shuffled and the dealer will deal seven cards to each player. The remaining cards are then placed face down on the table. Moving clockwise from the dealer, the first player must place an appropriate catalog card belonging to the subject category next to the category stack. If the player cannot do this, they may change the category with another category card or draw from the face down stack until he/she obtains an appropiate card. A player may at anytime challenge a player's discard. This can be varified with the reference sheet provided. If the card is of the correct category, the challenger must pick up three cards from the deck and play continues. If the challenged player did discard an incorrect card, he/she must pick up the discarded card and continue to draw from the deck until he/she obtains an appropriate card. The game is over when one player has discarded all of his/her cards.

Card Design The cards have been kept simple with only necessary information. There are two types of cards:

  1. Category Cards. There will be two cards representing each of the ten major categories defined by the Dewey Decimal System. The only information provided on these cards will be the number representing that category. i.e. 000-099. This will make for a total of 20 category cards.
  2. Catalog Cards. These cards will have the same information seen on a library catalog card, minus the category and the call number. There are five cards for each category making a total of 50 Catalog Cards.



    Deck Design There will be a total of 70 cards as described above. These cards will be four by two and one half inches with a standard pattern on the back of each card.

    Sample Cards

    Actual Size 4'' by 2.5"

    Design Process The need for this game was suggested by an actual librarian who felt that a fun way to learn basic library skills did not exist. The basic library skills are not a very exciting subject, but are necessary for continued education. While first designing this game, I realized that the number of categories (10) was larger than standard card games. By keeping the number of catalog cards to five per category, (originally ten) the number of total cards would be managable. Another consideration was the fact that a single representative of each category i.e. Pure Sciences 500-590, would be eliminated after the next change to a new category. This would make it impossible to discard any science catalog cards and prevent the holder of these cards from winning. To solve this problem, there are two representatives of each category. Another consideration in the design is the verification of correct discards. The challenge rule prevents players from bluffing and will test the knowledge of all players at each discard. I carefully considered what information would be placed on the two types of cards. By only putting the category number on the category cards, the players are forced to know that category's definition or take the chance of bluffing. Of course the players can follow the lead of the previous player, but they still must decide what category each book belongs to. The category and call numbers were deliberately eliminated from these cards. The catalog cards will represent actual library catalog cards with titles that should be easily classified. There will be a reference list provided that lists all catalog cards and their correct category and Dewey Decimal Number.


    Last updated by Jeff Burton on September 30, 1996.

    Return to the Card Game Table of Contents.

    Educational Technology 670, Fall 1996.