Rocks & Minerals Solitaire



by Andrea J. Catania

Andrea teaches at L.R. Green School in Escondido Elementary Union School District. She enjoys geology, languages, music and traveling.

Instructional Objective The learner will be able to classify the rock/mineral by matching the rock/mineral to its corresponding category and classification.


Learners/Context The learners are students currently enrolled in a Science class studying the area of Geology and rock/mineral categories and classifications.

This card game would be used by the students after class discussions and completing activities relating to rock/mineral categories and classifications. Several sets of the card game would be managed by the teacher and available for all students. The cards could be used outside of class or during class for practice and/or remediation purposes.


Rationale The material to be learned is structurally an easy one to master. As seen below, it can be thought of as a 3 x 4 matrix with 4 unique classifications.

              Igneous       Sedimentary   Metamorphic   Mineral       
 High Value    7-10          7-10          7-10          7-10         
               4-6           4-6           4-6           4-6          
Combination                                                           
  Low Value    1-3           1-3           1-3           1-3          

A card game is useful for this type of instruction for several reasons. The amount of material to be learned is discrete and well-defined, the required learning of classifying rocks/minerals lends itself well to a card game and having a card game introduces a unique way of learning this material.


Rules The game is played as follows:

1. The objective of the game is to move 7 piles of randomly distributed cards from their original piles to 4 sequential stacks, organized from the 1 to the 10 card, using a set of rules. Shuffle the cards. Randomly distribute the cards into 7 piles, starting from the left and as you lay a card on each pile the next card should be face up. Your setup should look like the example.

These cards are played until the number 1 card is revealed.

When the number 1 card from each stack is revealed, it is placed here:

2. To make a play, you place one card onto another, in order to reveal other face-down cards and bring them into play. Cards are played in descending order, alternating suit. Black and Brown are the dark suit and Red and Gray are the light suit. A dark suit card cannot be played with another dark suit card or a light suit card cannot be played with another light suit card. For example, a red 6 may be played below a black 7, and a brown 8 may be played below a gray 9, etc. So, a black card cannot be used with a brown card or a red with a gray.

3. Ones are placed in one of four separate piles outside the playing area. Two's are played on top of these in the same suit in ascending order until all four stacks run from 1 to 10 in each suit.

4. Remaining cards are used 3 at a time until there are no more moves to be made. Cards from the original 7 stack may be moved if there are available plays. If it is possible, a 10 may be placed in an open space once an empty spot has opened among the seven available spaces.

If you have no legal plays left, (no cards can be placed onto other cards, and there are no 1's or subsequent cards available to be moved from the playing area), then you must use up the remaining cards until there are no more moves left. You have won the game when you have successfully made 4 stacks of cards, each in numerical order from 1 to 10.

Card Design


Deck Design There are four types of cards used in the game. All the cards are point/color coded on the picture side to distinguish them from each other and to identify their suit.

1. Igneous cards-(Black) There are 10 Igneous cards ranging from pointed, worth 10 points, to blunt, worth 1 point.

2. Sedimentary cards-(Gray) There are 10 Sedimentary cards ranging from dark in color, worth 10 points, to light in color, worth 1 point.

3. Metamorphic cards-(Brown) There are 10 Metamorphic cards ranging from shiny, worth 10 point, to dull, worth 1 point.

4. Mineral cards-(Red) There are 10 Mineral cards ranging from hard, worth 10 points, to soft, worth 1 point.


Design Process The first design consideration was deciding on the type of structure to use for this instructional problem. At first, a two-handed game to be played by students was considered to help facilitate the exchange of ideas between the students in different classes. This was ruled out due to the complicated schedule of the classes. A solitaire structure fits nicely with the needs of the individual student and doesn't impede class time. This structure would also require fewer decks to produce therefore lowering production costs.

Another hurdle to overcome was addressing the issue of how a student would know whether he/she was correct in their matching classifications and categories without resorting to a separate answer key. Obviously the solution was to incorporate the key onto the card itself without also being obvious to the player while engaged in the game.

I thought about having more than one rock/mineral type for a particular classification and leaving others out but trial runs showed that players didn't keep track of what classifications of rocks/minerals had already been matched. Having one rock/mineral for each set of classifications also eliminated the need to have more than one deck.

Rock/Minerals Classifications

Igneous - (Black) Metamorphic - (Brown)

1. Pumice 1. Slate

2. Basalt Scoria 2. Schist

3. Rhyolite Porphyry 3. Mica Schist

4. Vesicular Basalt 4. Gneiss

5. Granite 5. Diorite Gneiss

6. Pegmatite 6. Argentite

7. Granodiorite Porphyry 7. Marble

8. Diorite 8. Pink Marble

9. Gabbro 9. Uraninite

10. Obsidian 10. Quartsize

Sedimentary - (Gray) Minerals - (Red)

1. Chalk 1. Talc

2. Coquina 2. Gypsum

3. Travertine 3. Calcite

4. Limestone 4. Fluorite

5. Shale 5. Apatite

6. Siltstone 6. Orthoclase

7. Sandstone 7. Quartz

8. Conglomerate 8. Topaz

9. Breccia 9. Corundum

10. Coal 10. Diamond