* Math Playground

If you haven’t yet visited Math Playground, you are in for a treat!  Designed by Colleen King for her classroom in 2002 and continuing to grow, Math Playground has now over 450 games and activities.  The site is organized by grade level (1-6+), math topics, and includes excellent math videos and an entire page of games and videos aligned to Common Core standards.

Math Playground provides ample practice on just about any skill you can name, with games that are not always timed, which can be a helpful feature for struggling students.  About 130 games are also available as apps from iTunes.  The site is certified kidSafe, so ads are benign.  Math Playground also donates to Donors Choose, a terrific site I’ve used in the past.

One of my favorite features of Math Playground is the accessibility of 28 interactive math manipulatives, such as “thinking blocks” for solving word problems on multiple topics.  Teachers, parents, and students can explore fraction bars, geoboards, fraction scales, probability spinners, tangrams, function machines, simple programming, and much more.  These manipulatives are a bit more difficult to find, so bookmark the link!

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Math Playground has many logic games and a cool section on the interaction between math and art.  “Equation Creations,” for instance, may appeal to students who are into video games and graphic designs.  For movie creation, there are 3 fun “sets”: a picnic site, rock band, and alien adventure.  If you’re a parent who needs a boost for supporting homework assignments, this site is also for you.  Finally, there are reading, spelling, and geography games, plus just-for-fun activities.

Math Playground is a 5-star site!

 

* Color your world desert sand…

… And have fun with programming at the same time!  This is the game board for a ThinkFun game for preschoolers called Robot Turtles.

Robot TurtlesIt’s never too early to play logic (aka coding) games and if you are trying to steer clear of screens with your younger ones or even introduce the joys of hands-on games to older kiddos, ThinkFun is a terrific resource.  A local toy store keeps us supplied with some of their classics, but you’ll probably have to go online to check out their wealth of problem- solving games.  The availability of non-screen games is shrinking, so it’s ironic that you need your screen to purchase hands-on fun.

I highly recommend ThinkFun as a source of individual and group entertainment, with brain challenges galore.  Does your kiddo have social skill challenges?  The structure of a group game can provide a satisfying, well-defined opportunity to engage with others.  Try Escape the Room mystery game (ages 10+). where you are transported back to 1869 to save a local astronomer.  These games are terrific for parties as well as family night fun.  Have a long car trip in your future?  ThinkFun has a number of fascinating 1 player games, too.

Thanks, Jennifer Nicole Wells, for your Color Your World challenge featuring desert sand.

* Gaming plus a ZAP?

sticky notesWill playing video games improve working memory?  Neuroscientists are examining the claims made by a number of cognitive training programs, with an eye to improving working memory in aging adults as well as youngsters with learning challenges. Why working memory?  It is a strong predictor of educational success.  (And it helps me remember why I trekked upstairs.)

A recent article in Brain in the News (written by Lisa Munoz for the Cognitive Neuroscience Society) reports that scientists have shocking news: apparent long-lasting benefits in working memory when a mild current (tDCS) is passed through the brain.  John Jonides, one of many researchers exploring how video games might improve working memory, reports that they tried the tDCS current “as a lark, not expecting to find much, but the fact that the training effect lasts as long as months is both surprising and very provocative because it opens up the use of tDCS for long-term learning enhancement.”

Jonides’ team is now studying two currents “to boost plasticity in the underlying brain cortex.”  His goal is to “accelerate the learning process that occurs during game play, especially for those individuals with damage.”  This is encouraging news, giving me hope that some day, weaknesses in working memory may be addressed efficiently and permanently.

Sign me up!  I am tired of wandering around, wondering what I was doing in the first place.  I might even start playing Hearts again!

* Gaming for kids

Check out my new category, Gaming for Kids.  As a special ed teacher and aunt to many younger kiddos, I am exposed to a wide range of computer and tablet games.  I’ve seen advantages and downsides to these activities.  There’s a growing body of educational neuroscience which can help parents and teachers evaluate whether a game is potentially helpful or harmful.  Remember that all kids are unique and what is benign for one may be toxic for another.  As an adult, I can easily waste time on games.  In fact, I can become addicted to those jewel matching games and have had to delete the lot of them.

I am now posting videos, article, and other media to Pixelpuf, a free gaming site.  Our son is working on this website, so there’s some nepotism involved!  It’s also interesting to see his evolution in the world of gaming.  As a youngster, he became addicted to Sega games and my dearest teaching widower and I had to banish the entire outfit.  He immediately switched to a variety of complex card games, like Babylon 5.  As an adult, he plays games with friends and continues his interest in complex analysis of game stuff.  If you can make sense of the article he’s posted, I greatly admire you!

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Here’s a screenshot of my collection to date.  If you want to view my stuff, set option to “recent by date.”  Otherwise, I’m kinda lost in there….