Anatomy Rummy

by Jack Miller

Jack Miller is a graduate student in Educational Technology at San Diego State University. He is CEO of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.


Instructional Objective The learners will be able to memorize the names of anatomical structure and their placement in relation to other anatomical structures. In the affective domain, the students will have fun learning what it often considered a difficult subject.

Learners/Context The learners are students in the first year of the Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine degree program at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Each learner has had a course that covers the nervous, muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems of the human body. Additionally the learner has had a course, Acupuncture Points 1, that covers the energetic system, known as the meridian system.

The game is designed to be played during or after class to reinforce the connection between the systems and to help the student visualize the location and memorize the names of the components of each system in the anterior and posterior views of the upper and lower extremities.

Rationale A game is an appropriate format for this situation because it provides a visual interface for a primarily visual educational task. The particular rules of the game reinforce the interconnectedness and order inherent in the subject itself. The card game is portable. It is quick and easy to play in almost any situation. The rules are familiar, therefore the game's learning curve does not inhibit learners from attempting the game.

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

The game is played in the following manner:

  1. The object of the game is to get two runs of three and four cards representing the sequential (deep to superficial) order of the five main anatomical components composing each suit. The dealer deals seven cards to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down and the top card is turned over to begin the discard stack. Moving clockwise from the dealer, the first player chooses either the discarded card or a card from the face down pile. The player determines which cards to keep and discards the extra card. The first player to create two runs of three and four cards places the cards down and must name three structures (e.g., three bones, three muscles) represented on each card. The other players refer to a reference sheet that indicates all the structures on each card to ascertain whether the player is correct. If the player cannot name at least three structures on each card, the player subtracts 1 point from his or her score for each card on which he or she failed to name three structures. The player with the winning hand adds the value of the cards laid down, subtracts the points for any unnamed structures and adds the total to his or her score. The players with the losing hands add the value of their cards and subtract it from their scores. The game is over when a player reaches a predetermined score. If a time limit is set instead, the winner is the player with the highest score at the end of the period.


  2. The Use of "Face" Cards. A player may earn more points by using cards with higher values and face cards which have a value of ten points. To get a run using a face card, the player must do one of the following.

    1) Fill in the structures between the structures represented on the card. For example, if the player had the Bones and Arteries card, a run of three would be created by having the corresponding Muscles card. A run of four would be created by adding the Nerves card.

    2) If the player has the Bones and Muscles card (which represent the first two cards in a sequence), a run of three would be created by adding the Arteries card. A run of four would be created by adding the Nerves card.

Card Design Each card has a representation of an anatomical structure of the upper or lower extremity from the anterior or posterior view. They are the same size as playing cards and have a pattern on the back.

Deck Design The desk has a total of 40 cards: four suits with ten cards in each suit. The suits are as follows: Anterior view of arm, posterior view of arm, anterior view of leg, posterior view of leg. The first six cards include the bones (1), muscles (2), arteries (3), nerves (4), veins (5), and meridians (6). These are the equivalent of the numbered cards in a deck of playing cards and their value is indicated in parentheses and corresponds roughly to the order of the structures from deep to superficial. The following four cards are the equivalent of face cards: Bones and Muscles, Bones and Arteries, and Bones and Nerves, Bones and Veins. Each "face" card has a value of 10.

Sample Cards

Anterior Arm Arteries (3), Anterior Arm Veins (5)

Anterior Arm Bones and Muscles (10), Anterior Arm Muscles (2)

Design Process I started by considering my audience and their needs. Anatomy is a difficult subject with a large component of memorization. Initially I wanted to design a card game in which the cards were printed on transparencies so that "runs" would actually be layers of bone, muscle, arteries, veins, and nerves. Unfortunately, transparent cards would allow your competitor to see what you needed. Perhaps this idea would be more applicable to a board game or computer simulation. I considered putting the number value on cards and may do that yet, however it may detract from focusing on the structures and simply getting the numbers in order.

I also considered (and could still create) a game in which the skeleton could be assembled distally to proximally (for appendicular skeleton) and inferiorly to superiorly (for the axial skeleton). This would lend itself to a solitaire structure quite nicely.

I also considered ideas for games using acupuncture points. Since each point on each meridian is numbered sequentially, each meridian could have been a suit and the point could have the value of its number. A kind of war game could be developed where the player would win the pile if his point number was higher AND he or she could recite the location of the point.

References Super Anatomy Collection (1993). LifeArt Collections. Cleveland, OH: Tech Pool Studios.

Last updated by Jack Miller on September 28, 1995.

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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1995.