The summer slide is bad enough when it’s just summer, so here are a few entertaining ways to keep your favorite students’ test scores from slipping.
Simple enough to teach young children, enjoyable enough to play with your spouse; after more than ten years in print, Sleeping Queens is still our favorite math game. Twelve fanciful queen cards are asleep (i.e. face down) in the middle of the table. On your turn, you can discard aking to wake one up, a dastardly knight to steal someone else’s queen (if there isn’t a heroic dragon around to protect her), or even a jester to sow chaos and randomness around the table. Most of the cards you’ll discard, however, are number cards. And just like in real life, numbers are boring: all you can do with number cards is discard them and hope to draw something more exciting. However! If you can make an addition problem out of your number cards — like, say you have a 2, a 3, and the 5 to which they add up — you can discard them all at once and draw a whole bunch of hopefully-something-more-exciting! Sleeping Queens is a game that encourages and rewards simple arithmetic, without being only about simple arithmetic. Unlike most educational games, it didn’t forget that a good educational game should also be a good game.
If you’re not into stealing someone else’s queens, how about stealing their potatoes instead? Potato Pirates has each player loading their ships up with attack cards, ready to raid other players’ ships. What makes these attack cards special is the fact that they use rudimentary programming concepts, such as loops and conditionals, to combo into something greater than the sum of their parts. This lets savvy swashbucklers hone their calculation and formal logic skills while swiping spuds.
Quiddler is a cross between Gin Rummy and a spelling bee. Instead of trying to fill out a ten-card hand with sets and runs, players are trying to fill their hands out with common English words. Most cards have one letter, but many have common pairs of letters already put together for you — as a result, winning hands are more likely to be found on vocabulary lists and less likely to be found in the back of the Scrabble Dictionary. A great way to practice your word-building whether English is your first language or not.
Timeline takes the most boring part of history class, the memorizing of meaningless dates, and turns it into a game so simple, intuitive and fun that you’ll be breaking it out to play with your friends at parties. Each card is double-sided: on one side is a historical event, complete with well-researched artwork, and on the other side is the same thing with the year it happened included. Everyone gets some cards dealt year-side-down in front of them. One card is turned year-side-up in the middle to start the timeline. On your turn, slide one of your cards into the ever-growing timeline where you think it belongs, then flip it up to see if you’re right. What if you have no clue? Study that well-researched artwork we mentioned earlier. Does that powdered wig look like the one on this card from the 1600s? What about the architecture? When you don’t know the answer, the game lets you substitute detective work for trivia. If only your history teacher were so accommodating.
Next, we’ll have a few games kids can play by themselves!