Saturday, February 5, 2011

Games in Education

I have to give my friend Melody the credit for our increased use of board games in our homeschooling.  She also homeschools her two daughters, who are about the same age of my son, and she told me that they played a lot of board games for educational purposes as well as just for fun.  I used to play board games with my son when he was little, but there was a while there when he wasn't interested in them, and I had kind of forgotten about them as a useful "subtle" educational tool.  But when Melody told me about her experience, I tried reintroducing board games, and they are a much bigger hit with my son than they were a few years ago.

So a cold and grey Saturday afternoon like this, when my husband was out at an activity, so just my son and I were at home, it seemed a perfect time for pulling out a board game.  My son had recently been given a game called Dicecapades, but we hadn't had a chance to play it yet.  Well, it was a BIG hit!  It has over 100 different dice of at least a dozen different varieties (triangular, octagonal, die within die, poker dice, picture dice, and so forth), so my son loved just that part of it.  Then you need to do all sorts of different things with the dice--math, of course, but also stacking them, or using them to select a trivia question, or using them as a subject of a drawing, and so forth.  There is lots of variety, and it is a fast moving game, plus it covers a lot of different subjects, and the things you have to do aren't foolish or too juvenile for an adult to enjoy.  I think this one will become a favorite in our house!

Of course, there are also lots of excellent games online as well that have educational quality (I'm talking about real games, not quizzes like Fling The Teacher I mentioned the other day, which make quizzing more interesting, but aren't really games).  My latest favorite is a game called Entanglement by a couple of part-time game developers (one from Hickory here in North Carolina) who have a company called Gopherwood Studios.  Entanglement is a lovely, fairly simple, and slow-paced game--a nice change from the kinds of games my son picks out to play online.  The game consists of following a continuous path through a bunch of hexagonal tiles overlaid on a beautiful Zen garden.  You choose which path to connect tile with tile, trying to create the longest possible continuous line without running into either the inner or outer wall.  It doesn't sound like much, but it is surprising difficult.  I, at least, haven't figured out the strategy to win the game--my scores are like 1/20th of the top scores recorded.  But you can take as long as you like to choose your path, making it quite meditative--and there is soothing Oriental music playing in the background.  But it is a great game for improving visual literacy (you have to visualize if these looping paths will end up running you into the wall or not) and taking time to consider the consequences of different choices--always a great skill to support, but especially among our young adolescents.

So I can full-heartedly recommend both of those games.  If anyone has an educational game, board or computer-based, that he or she would like to recommend, please add it to the comments below.

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