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Getting Set for SET
October 31, 2005

The second-annual Kent County SET tournament will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, in the Commons Lecture Hall at Calvin College.

The 2005 tournament will feature more levels of competition and more games.

And in the days leading up to the big SET event, Calvin will feature more of the game’s creator, Marsha Falco, as she participates in the college’s programs and classes.

“Last year, we realized that Marsha has the capacity to educate us, not just to play games,” says Calvin’s director of community relations Carol Rienstra, whose office is co-sponsoring the tournament with the Gifted and Talented Resource Network of West Michigan and the Michigan Educational Savings Plan. “She’s smart and fun. She’s a very engaging teacher.”

This year’s tournament, featuring Falco’s card game of perception and mathematical reasoning, will be an elimination event.

Players aged six to 18, drawn from area schools, will be grouped according to age and playing ability. In each age division, the top prize winner will receive a $75 gift certificate, with a $50 gift certificate going to second place, and a $25 gift certificate going to third place.

Falco’s other educational games—Quiddler, Triology, Xactika, Five Crowns and Jurassic Jumble—will be on sale at the tournament site and at Calvin’s Campus Store. Part of the proceeds from the game sales will benefit Calvin’s Academic Camps for Excellence (ACE) held every summer.

In addition to judging the tournament, her primary role in last year’s event, Falco will lecture and teach her games both on and off the Calvin campus.

On Wednesday, November 2, Falco will speak to graduate students in education professor Deb Buursma’s “Curriculum and Instruction: Learning Disabilities” class.

While SET, a game that develops both logic and intuition, is often thought of as an exercise for the gifted and talented, “Marsha finds that there are a lot of different uses for these games for students at various learning levels,” says Rienstra.

Thursday, Falco will speak at Calvin’s popular Noontime Series on the subject, “Get SET: Ready to Play.” The series is free and open to the public.

She will spend that afternoon teaching her games to children in Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church’s after-school program. (Neland is one of many churches partnered with Calvin Office of Pre-College Programs.)

And from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Falco will play SET with Calvin students in Johnny’s Café.

Falco, a geneticist, created the first SET game in 1974 after using cards to memorize genetic traits in German shepherd dogs. In 1991, her family began marketing the game, which has won several awards.

The SET game’s 81 cards are marked with groups of one, two or three symbols that are categorized by shape (oval, diamond, squiggle) color (red, green, purple) or shading (open, colored, striped). Players compete to find the most “sets” of three cards that are either all alike or all different.

“It’s challenging every time you play it,” Rienstra says, “and it’s a different challenge with every set layout. It’s hard but it’s also simple. It’s simply the most challenging and relaxing game I’ve ever played by myself or with others.”