# Fun? You Can Count On It!

A lot of the STEM-related toys and games we review here focus on science and engineering (building). This week we take a look at five entertaining games that emphasize math. They’re all from Jax, Ltd., and you can find out more at jaxgames.com/

### The Game of Chips

Players take turn rolling the dice and removing any combination of chips (numbered 1-10) that match what they rolled. For example, if you roll an 8, you can take out the 8, 7+1, 6+2, 5+3, 5+2+1. 4+3+1. This part of the game is a great way for young players to use and master basic addition facts. But wait—there’s a small element of strategy involved too. If it’s your turn and there aren’t enough chips left on the table to match your dice, you score the total on those chips. Low score wins. For two or more players, ages 7+. Under \$8.

### Match ‘Em

Each player gets five cards and the first player lays one down. The next in line plays as many cards as possible to match the value of the first player’s card (similar to the matching combinations in The Game of Chips). If you can’t come up with a match, you draw two from the deck and either make a match or establish a new target. The goal, of course, is to be the first to use all your cards. To win, you’ll need a combination of luck, strategy (to make your opponents draw more cards), and a sense of humor. For 2-4 players, ages 7+. About \$4.

### Over and Out

It all starts with a “Tip Top” card. Players draw cards from the deck and play cards from their own hand, keeping track of the total, and hoping not to be the one who goes over the Tip Top limit. It’s not all about addition, though. Special cards require players to subtract, or even change the Tip Top number. A fun, fast-paced way to use basic math facts and, of course, to spend time together. For 2-8 players, ages 7+. About \$7.

### Polygon

The rules of this game are sometimes a challenge to follow, but the game itself is well worth learning. Each of the six-sided pieces has three numbers and three colors and your goal is to lay down your tiles in patterns and combinations that get you the most points. Sounds simple, but this game requires a lot of thinking and strategizing. It’s also a fun way to practice basic addition and multiplication facts. For 2-4 players, ages 7+ (although it’s also a fun game to play by yourself). About \$16.

### Sequence Numbers

If you like the Sequence games, you already have a pretty good idea of how to play Sequence Numbers. But this one’s a little different. In the other Sequence games, you match pictures on cards with pictures on the game board. In Numbers, each card has an addition or subtraction equation and the answers are on the board. Solve the equation and put down your chip. As with other Sequence games, the goal is to get five chips in a row, up, down, or diagonally. To make it a little easier to find your answer on the board—and to help younger players double-check their math—the equations and their correct answer are printed in the same color. This is a really fun game that’ll get you and the kids thinking and laughing together as you brush up on your basic math facts. Ages 7+, 2-6 players. Around \$16.50.

# Some Assembly Required

Some games are ready to go right out of the box. Others require a little more work. Here are four interactive kits that we know will keep you and your kids entertained for hours.

### Light It and Shake It (lectrify)

Lectrify is a new company whose mission is to “make it easy and accessible for makers of all ages to build mechanical and electronic projects.” And after trying two of their kits, we can assure you that the company is achieving that goal. The core of each kit is a fully-functional circuit board. Light It includes a battery, two LEDs, an on/off switch, and a momentary switch (like an on/off switch but it only works when you press and hold it). Shake It includes a battery, on/off switch, vibrating motor, and more. Young makers (and their parents) can experiment with the board. Then, when they’re feeling confident, they can snap the components out of the board and embed them in any project they’d like. One especially cool feature is that the circuit components are compatible with LEGO and other systems, so it’s easy to add some special features to your LEGO creations. The possibilities are unlimited, but if you want some suggestions, there are plenty on the website. For ages 5 and up (with adult supervision). Prices vary. http://www.lectrify.it/

### Totally Irresponsible Science Kit (Sean Connolly)

Sean Connolly has done a great service for science and math, making both subjects a lot more interesting and engaging. The titles of two of his previous books should give you an idea of his strategy: “The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists” and “The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math: 24 Death-Defying Challenges for Young Mathematicians.” The experiments in this book/kit combo aren’t terribly new, but it’s the approach that counts. For example, learning how to make bubbles out of soap or generate static electricity is okay (yawn). But when you put it in terms of encasing your little brother in a giant bubble or shooting a bolt of lightning from your fingertip, now you’ve got something fun. Includes the book, a beaker, a test tube, and a measuring spoon. The rest of the ingredients you probably have around the house. For ages 7 and up.  \$15 on www.amazon.com

### Build a Knight’s Castle: Paper Toy Archaeology (Annalie Seaman)

What a great way to spark in interest in archeology. You and your child start by reading about how people in medieval times lived, built their castles, and defended them. Along the way, Annalie Seaman, an archeologist and educator, shows you how to pull clues from medieval documents, paintings, maps, burial sites, scraps of metal, and more. Then, you use that knowledge to build a 3D castle using pieces that pop out of the book—knights and weapons included. For ages 5 and up. Under \$11 on www.amazon.com

### Malia’s Beach House Building Kit (Build & Imagine)

Aimed mostly at girls (although plenty of boys will enjoy it too), this constructible dollhouse helps bring out those all-important STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) skills, including building, spatial reasoning, and problem solving. Build & Imagine has a number of kits, all of which use magnetic panels and pieces and are 100% compatible with each other. This one includes Malia and Skyler dolls, 17 dual-sided, illustrated panels, and a few dozen accessories. Kids design and build their own indoor- or outdoor world. Once that’s done, they can incorporate the dolls, clothes, and other accessories and props to create any scene they’d like. For age 4 and up \$60. https://www.buildandimagine.com/

# Learning with Your Kids? There’s an App for That

As fun—and educational—as iPads can be, when it comes to parents playing learning games with their children (as opposed to kids playing by themselves and turning into zombies), there really isn’t an app for that. Until now. TigerFace Games has developed a number of learning apps that allow parents and children to either compete or collaborate. The TigerFace Games apps are just a few of the dozens of games that are part of the Fingerprint Network. We spoke with Nancy MacIntyre, Fingerprint’s CEO and co-founder. Having worked at Broderbund, LeapFrog,and  Hasbro, Nancy knows a thing or two about games. “We’re trying to create experiences that parents and kids can do together,” she says.

We test-drove three Fingerprint apps, including two that are being released this week. We also previewed two more that are due out by the end of September. All are fun, engaging, entertaining, and challenging, and the graphics and animation are excellent.

Cosmic Reactor
Two players compete head-to-head in seven math-based games. One is a memory-match game, where players turn over “plates” that have equations, trying to find matching pairs (for example, 5×2 and 20-10). In another, a randomly-generated problem comes up (“pick the equation that gives 41”), and players have to find the right one from among a bunch of equation-sporting viruses that are floating around the screen. Customization is easy, so kindergarteners can do simple addition and subtraction, while older kids can multiply and divide larger numbers. (Ages 5-11; \$2.99).

Quick Tap Spanish
In this two-person game, players race to match foreign-language words with their English equivalents. Quick Tap (which also comes in French, German, Portuguese, Mandarin, and others. Includes more than 100 word pairs in a variety of categories, such as animals, colors, food, and numbers. A fun way to brush up on the basics. (Ages: 5-11; \$1.99)

The Flying Alphabetinis
If you like Scramble With Friends (by Zynga) or Boggle, you’ll love this game, where tiny acrobats with letters on their bellies pile on top of each other and create a jumble. Players find words forwards, backwards, up, down, and even zig-zagy. Flashcards with hints (like a picture of a boat) help early readers.  (Ages 5-11; Free – \$2.99).

Sushi Scramble (coming soon)
A friendly sushi chef puts letters on floating boats while hungry customers grab them as fast as they can. In the 2-person collaborative mode, players work together to complete assignments such as, “Make two words that start with T”. In competitive mode, up to four players make words using letters from the boats or snatched from another player’s tray..(Ages 7-11; \$2.99)

Equator (coming soon)The earth is out of whack and the only way to set things right is to come up with two equations that produce equal results. Both players work together using game-generated numbers and floating arithmetic operators (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). As the game progresses, problems gradually become more challenging. (Ages 5-11; Free – \$2.99)

When parents download any of the 40+ Fingerprint apps, they become part of the Network, which offers some nice features. Of course, basic parental controls keep kids from downloading more apps without permission. But there’s also the ability to set up individual profiles for everyone in the family and track each child’s progress. That way dad and mom will know whether there are specific areas the child needs to work on.

Right now, Fingerprint apps are available only on Apple devices. But Android versions will be out soon.  As Nancy MacIntyre says, “We’ll do anything we can to keep kids and families playing together.” For more info, visit http://www.fingerprintplay.com

# Fun You Can Count On

Numbers are all around us and we use them every day. What’s the time difference between the east and west coasts? How many miles per gallon does your car get? What percentage of your income are you paying to the IRS? Which of two similar items in a grocery store is the better deal? How much do we tip a server or taxi driver? What does a 20% discount mean in actual dollars? What’s your favorite player’s batting average and your team’s win-loss percentage? Sadly, too many of us have trouble with basic calculations, partly because we decided as kids that math was either irrelevant (not true) or not fun (often true). This week we take a look at a line of games that will help you and the kids brush up on your math skills—and, perhaps more importantly, are a great fun for everyone.

Mathable
Think Scrabble, but with numbers and mathematical equations instead of letters. Each player starts with seven tiles and plays as many as he or she can, combining them with the tiles that are already on the board to create number problems. Like Scrabble, there are blanks and double- and triple-value squares. A few interesting things are going on here. First, you’re using all four basic math functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. For advanced players, there’s no reason why you can’t add square roots, trigonometry, or more. Second, because the equations on the board are go up, down, and even backwards, you’ll start thinking about numbers in a very different way. Third, while calculations are essential, if you want to win, you’ll also need to employ logic and strategy. Ages 9 and up. \$17.95

Mathable Junior
This variation on the classic is aimed at kids 5 and up. The tiles are larger and colorful, which makes them easier to handle and more fun for little hands to play with. The board has two sides, one designed for those just getting used to using numbers, the other for those who’re pretty good but aren’t quite ready to move up to the big-kid/grown-up version. \$18.95

Mathable Quattro
With a nod to the current Texas Hold ‘Em poker craze, Quattro uses a deck of 106 numbered cards instead of tiles. Players get dealt a hand and then four additional cards go face up in the middle. Players then create math equations by combining the numbers in their hand with those on the table. The one who uses the most cards wins. Again, the rules say only addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, but it’s fine with us if you want to add more advanced skills. Ages 9 and up. \$6.69

Mathable Domino
While the basic theme of creating equations is the same, this game adds a degree of difficulty by using domino-like tiles that have different numbers on each end. You score points by strategically placing your tiles on the board, building off of the ones that are already there. Ages 9 and up. \$9.97

Mathable Booklet
Mathable games are great for road trips. But with so many small pieces, you’re bound to lose some. The Mathable booklet solves that problem by cleverly creating versions of Domino, Quattro, and several other games that you can do on paper. All you’ll need is a pencil. And a big eraser. Ages 9 and up. \$5.95

Many of the Mathable games are also available as free phone- and tablet apps, which you can download at either wookyentertainment.com or mathablegame.com