Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mathematics and Statistics


David Brown


Combinatorial games are intriguing and have a tendency to engross students and lead them into a serious study of mathematics. The engaging nature of games is the basis for this thesis. Two combinatorial games along with some educational tools were developed in the pursuit of the solution of these games.

The game of Nim is at least centuries old, possibly originating in China, but noted in the 16th century in European countries. It consists of several stacks of tokens, and two players alternate taking one or more tokens from one of the stacks, and the player who cannot make a move loses. The formal and intense study of Nim culminated in the celebrated Sprague-Grundy Theorem, which is now one of the centerpieces in the theory of impartial combinatorial games. We study a variation on Nim, played on a graph. Graph Nim, for which the theory of Sprague-Grundy does not provide a clear strategy, was originally developed at the University of Colorado Denver. Graph Nim was first played on graphs of three vertices.

The winning strategy, and losing position, of three vertex Graph Nim has been discovered, but we will expand the game to four vertices and develop the winning strategies for four vertex Graph Nim.

Graph Theory is a markedly visual field of mathematics. It is extremely useful for graph theorists and students to visualize the graphs they are studying. There exists software to visualize and analyze graphs, such as SAGE, but it is often extremely difficult to learn how use such programs. The tools in GeoGebra make pretty graphs, but there is no automated way to make a graph or analyze a graph that has been built. Fortunately GeoGebra allows the use of JavaScript in the creation of buttons which allow us to build useful Graph Theory tools in GeoGebra. We will discuss two applets we have created that can be used to help students learn some of the basics of Graph Theory.

The game of thrones is a two-player impartial combinatorial game played on an oriented complete graph (or tournament) named after the popular fantasy book and TV series. The game of thrones relies on a special type of vertex called a king. A king is a vertex, k, in a tournament, T, which for all x in T either k beats x or there exists a vertex y such that k beats y and y beats x. Players take turns removing vertices from a given tournament until there is only one king left in the resulting tournament. The winning player is the one which makes the final move. We develop a winning position and classify those tournaments that are optimal for the first or second-moving player.