Archive for the ‘Fun Math for Kids’ Category

MangaHigh: Algebra Meltdown


Algebra Meltdown is a fun math game in which the player solves linear equations to guide atoms through a nuclear reactor. You have been hired by Lissaman Industries to work on one of its dangerous black-ops research projects. Your job as a new controller is to fulfill the requests of the scientists waiting at the Generator’s outlets. Each scientist will request a certain atom, which you create by solving linear equations, then guiding ‘raw’ atoms through the Generator’s labyrinth of machines and tubes to the appropriate requester.

I played a few of the algebra games I found on the web, in an effort to establish a context for what the MangaHigh team achieved with Algebra Meltdown. The thing that struck me immediately was that most of the algebra games are terribly simplistic in terms of game play, so much so that sometimes the game play is derived from some bolted on activity. In contrast, Algebra Meltdown is real game with a serious algebra curriculum as its underpinnings.

The game play has complications beyond the equations themselves… You have to be quick and give the rather impatient scientists what they need. If you take too long in fulfilling a request, the scientist will storm off. If you frustrate too many scientists, you will be terminated. So, the clock is ticking… tick-tock, tick-tock. The other complication is managing the gates, on any given reactor, that deliver an atoms to a specific outlet. You might solve the desired equation, but route it improperly.

The pace of Algebra Meltdown is quite good and it some how avoids that “math test” feel. It doesn’t take too long before you start to feel the pressure created by the demands of the scientist and managing multiple requests. The quality of the game design really does shine through, inasmuch as the curriculum is woven into the very fabric of the game.

Once again, I have to say, “Bravo!” to the MangaHigh team.

LeapFrog Didj


My daughter has been a Leapster2 player for a couple of years, but she’s at the upper age range for the bulk of the Leapster games, so I did a bit of cherry picking, in terms of purchasing Leapster games, and started looking for the successor to the Leapster2. The successor had to be a serious educational platform as well as being a cool and engaging game device.

When I say, “serious educational platform”, I’m speaking to the ability to track or measure progress, and ideally customize content.

While the Nintendo DS might be good choice as a successor to the Leapster2, there is no facility to track progress or customize content, so we stayed with LeapFrog and purchased the Didj.

The Didj comes with one starter game, Jetpack Heroes, a math game for grades 2-5.

The other math game titles available for the Didj are:

  • Android Invasion
  • Indiana Jones
  • SpongeBob Squarepants: Fists of Foam
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Super Chicks

What Have We Here?
In terms of form factor and appointments the Didj has a lot in common with the original Game Boy Advance, with its d-pad, “A” and “B” face buttons, two shoulder buttons, and a screen in the middle of the system. As with the GBA the game cartridges load into the top of the system, and it has a power On/Off slider, a volume slider, as well as a backlight slider. All of the sliders are inset making accidental changes rather difficult. All-in-all the system has a solid feel and the buttons perform well.

The Didj is powered by four AA batteries (called LR6 in some countries), distributed in compartments on either side of the device. The compartments are accessed by pressing a coin into a slot at the edge of the compartment. The coin depress a latch that allows the compartment to slide off. Removing the battery compartments is a bit of a pain, but it’s designed to prevent children from “exploring”.

The Didj must be configured before your child can start playing. The configuration process includes, setting up the Didj handheld (by selecting a country and creating a profile), installing LeapFrog Connect  on your PC or Mac (from the included CD), and finally connecting the Didj to the computed (on which LeapFrog Connect is installed) to finish the configuration and download the Jetpack Heroes mini game.

Once you power up the Didj you’ll notice the customization options, which include player name and grade (for up to 4 players), and screen color combinations for the menu screens, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Once LeapFrog Connect is installed and you access the Didj Home Page, which presents four additional tabs: Micromods, Didjerator, Skill Selector, and My Didj.

With respect to the initial Didj configuration you’ll be most interested in Didjerator, Micromods, and Skill Selector (not necessarily in that order)

The Didjerator is a part of the Didj LeapFrog Connect Application where Didjis (avatars) can be selected and customized, or created from scratch. These Didjis can then be transfered to the Didj handheld to be used in games. The Didjerator can store up to 10 Didjis.  If you want to create a new Didji after having already saved 10, you will need to delete one of the old Didjis.

Didjis can only be used in non-licensed games such as Jet Pack Heroes and Super Chicks.  Didjis are not available for use in licensed games such as Star Wars or Disney Cars.

The Micromods page is where your child can “spend” the Bitz he/she earns by achieving goals on the Didj handheld to “purchase” customizations to enhance the gaming experience such as, additional backgrounds, weapons, power-ups, new background music, Didji costumes, and additional character animations for games.

After playing a game, Micromods for that game will become available. Once downloaded, Micromods are set to automatically download to the Didj handheld the next time it is connected. Ensure that a Micromod is set to automatically download, navigate to the On My Didj page and look for the associated game. Make sure the check mark next to the game is checked.

Skill Selector
The Skill Selector page allows parents to customize their child’s gaming experience, by incorporating a unique targeted Skill Set (curriculum, if you will) and tranferring it to the Didj handheld. Weekly spelling lists can be added to a game. That said, you can only add words that are already in a predefined database database. Depending the games you have, you’ll see more skill options, including language arts, math, and math facts.

Note: A parent account must have been created and information provided about who plays a game using this a given player name.

A Bit of Frustration
Once my daughter got her hands on the Didj she quickly put down the Leapster, but after a day or so she came to me saying she couldn’t save her Jet Pack Heroes game. I started to look into the matter, and found that she was right. I kept digging and found that Jet Pack Heroes is considered a mini (starter) game, designed with levels that can be completed quickly, and as such will not allow the state of the game to be saved. This was particularly frustrating for her in that is impacts her ability to acquire Bitz and customize the game. I wish I’d know about that when I purchased the Didj. Had I know I would have purchased another math game when I purchased the Didj handheld.

DreamBox Learning K-2 Math

This post is more personal than analytical to me, in that, this is the first time I’ve written about my daughter, who is 1st grader this year.

I had already written an article about DreamBox Learning K-2 Math and had done quite a bit of research in an effort to compare and contrast subscription educational websites that claim to have fun math games. I was quite impressed by DreamBox Learning, so I asked my wife to take a look at the website. I had a pretty good feel for how she would react, but had no idea as to which points would resonate with her. Read the rest of this entry »

Fun Math for Kids: Is There Such A Thing as Fun Math For Kids?

mean school marm

A million years ago, when I was in elementary school, math was one of those desiccated subjects, taught by a teacher who slipped into stultifying monotone, which sucked the energy from your very being. The whole environment inspired fear and loathing in much of the class. So, you were either left to find your own path to mathematical enlightenment or you enlisted outside assistance. This was a very sad situation, which didn’t have to be… not then and not now.

Today media are much more varied than they were in my Jurassic childhood and they address all manner of math concepts. There is children’s literature that speaks to math, such as Greg Tang’s “Math-terpieces” and “Math Fables”. There are myriad manipulatives, e-books (such as “Making Math More Fun” and “Vedic Maths”), board games, video games and websites too numerous to mention.

Creating an educational environment that fosters the development of Strategic thinking in children is critical. This form of problem solving requires attention to detail, the capacity to observe, collect disparate pieces of information, analyze that information, formulate and analyze possible solutions and take appropriate actions.

It is important that math is presented as an everyday activity, which is an element of Strategic thinking. This everyday activity is at the very least, useful, but can be fun, elegant, and inspiring. Learning to use math does not require your child to be a genius or be endowed with special powers (and they must know this).

As parents and instructors it’s our job to ensure that our children have the tools necessary to be successful in school and in life. We have to make sure that our children’s curiosity is not soured or destroyed by the local math Nazi. Most of all we must let them know that math can indeed be fun and interesting.

…Yes there is such a thing as “Dad’s Fun Math Games”!

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