Monthly Archives: December 2013

7 Board Games That Teach Math Skills (and are actually FUN)!

By: Samantha Oestreicher, guest writer

Editor’s note: Samantha is a college math teacher who also writes a blog entitled, “Social Mathematics.” She offered to share some of her expertise with us here at Engaged Family Gaming and we couldn’t pass it up! Read on for some excellent examples of board games that teach math concepts without being all “teachy” about it!

There is a lot of pressure from the media and from peers to believe that math is painful. Sometimes adults try to dress up mathematics to make it look like“a game”. As a gamer, I have been really disappointed in these dressed up math practice games because they miss the point of what a game really is. Instead they are loosely veiled attempts to manipulate kids to use math in a “fun” way.

All is not lost though, great games do exist that use mathematical thinking and math skills. The following is a list of fun games that can inspire mathematical thinking. I have compiled a list of seven wonderful board games for gaming families which can be enjoyed by parent and child alike which also include mathematical thinking.

  1. Set 5+ (grouping/sorting)

Set is an amazing card game! This is a game that your 6-year-old will be better at than you are. I’m not kidding; kids totally rock this game. This is a matching game that can be played solo or with any sized group. The rules are relatively simple. The cards each have a certain number of shapes on them of a particular color and pattern. A set is three cards which all have the same type of an attribute or miss-match an attribute. Perhaps a set is three cards all have ovals with a striped pattern on them but each card has a different number of shapes (1, 2, and 3) and different colored (purple, green and red). Pro tip: Sometimes there isn’t a set available in the cards on the table. When I play set with undergraduate math majors I ask them to prove to me why there isn’t a set. Challenging older kids to explain why is excellent mathematical practice! This game fits in your purse or stroller and is perfect for a quick distraction and only requires a small table (or floor) of space.

  1. Rummikub 7+ (Numerals/grouping/relationships)

Rummikub is a 2-4 player classic game with lots of tiles to play with and sort. While Rummikub is also about color/number matching, it is more advanced than Set because you can re-organize the board. The matching rules are similar to Set, but now all the collections of tiles stay out on the table and you can steal from already created collections to make a new one. Worst comes to worst, the tiles are fun to play with and you can build things with them! This is a great game to play at home or at the end of the day on a vacation.

  1. Connect Four 7+ (planning/pattern recognition/Loud pieces!)

Every family needs a noisy, clattering, pieces-get-everywhere kind of a game. Connect Four is a childhood classic that supports geometric thinking, planning and pattern recognition. It is a two player game and great for two children to play together. Basically, Connect Four is an advanced version of tic-tac-toe. I do not recommend taking this game out of your home as you will surely lose pieces. This is a great game to entertain the kids while you are finishing dinner or something.

  1. 20 Express 8+ (consecutive numbering/planning)

This game is great for parents to play with your kids! It’s a number game which focuses on consecutive ordering. The scoring may take parental involvement as it is a little weird at first sight. However, the cool part about this game is that everyone tries to organize the same numbers at the same time. So you, as a parent, can compare answers with the other players. “Oh, that was a good choice, I didn’t think to do it that way!” The only negative to 20 Express is that it obviously uses math and that may turn off some kids. This game is good for traveling as it doesn’t require a central table and any number of people can play at once. Each player just needs a pen and something to write on.

  1. Ticket To Ride 8+ (counting/planning)

This game is really fun! It is a time commitment (maybe an hour once everyone knows the rules) and requires a big table. There are lots of little train pieces that you get to place on the board when you build railroad tracks between cities on the map. I don’t recommend this game if you have a cat or child who likes to jump on the table and mess up the board. This 2-5 player game requires business optimization similar to operations research. There is no money, but you have to collect cards which include restrictions on where you are allowed to build. This game requires a longer attention, but is full of bright colors and will definitely be just as fun for the parents as the children!

  1. Rush Hour 8+ (problem solving/ spatial awareness)

Rush Hour is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap.

  1. Sumoku 9+ (addition/multiplication)

Sumoku is a math-centric game for 1-8 players. Think of it as Scrabble/Bananagrams for numbers. You add to the existing tile layout based on a specific mathematical goal. For example, every row must add to a multiple of 3. This is a great game to support a young mathematical thinker because along with practicing basic computational skills, the player is also planning and matching. Unlike Bananagrams, there is no element of speed, so young players may take as long as necessary to check their math before they place their tiles. Like 20 Express, this game obviously uses mathematics. But, I believe Sumoku is interesting and dynamic enough to provide entertainment to the whole family. This game is easy to transport and requires a central table.

My recommendation is that, if you only buy one of these games, get Set. Then I would pick up Ticket to Ride. After that your choices should depend on you and your children’s interests. And remember that your involvement always improves the quality of the game. Mathematical thinking requires self reflection and the ability to collaborate. Challenge your kids to explain why they made a particular choice or ask them to help you with your move.

Happy Gaming!

Math Games at Home

Looking for educational and fun computer games for children?

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Vermont public schools invited to compete in $2 million solve for tomorrow contest

Samsung and its partners doubled the total prize value to more than $2 million as compared to last year and ensured that every state in the nation will benefit in this year’s Solve for Tomorrow by awarding finalists and winners from each of the 50 states and DC. The winners will receive products, software and programming for their schools from Samsung and program partners DirecTV and Adobe.

There are huge technology packages up for grabs and this is what Vermont schools can win if they participate: 5Vermont state finalists will each receive two Samsung tablets — then 1 Vermont state winner will receive a technology package worth $20,000 (estimated retail value) with potential to win more the further along they progress in the contest.

“Lack of proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) has become a barrier for American children and future US competitiveness abroad,” said David Steel, Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy for Samsung Electronics North America. “Samsung recognizes our responsibility as a technology leader to not only spark enthusiasm for STEM education, but publicly commit to advancing this critical issue.”

Since 2004, Samsung’s education programs have contributed more than $13 million* in technology to more than 500 public schools in the United States. Samsung continues to support children’s education by providing tools that empower young people to learn through a variety of STEM initiatives, including the company’s Summer Science Camps, Mobile Application Academies and a partnership with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Samsung created Solve for Tomorrow in 2010 to foster sustainable innovation and address the technology gap in classrooms across the country to help the United States maintain its economic and technological global leadership for years to come. This year, Solve for Tomorrow’s scope has expanded not only in total prizing but in the challenge contest participants are asked to answer. The focus on prior years was on improving the environment in the students’ local communities but now the challenge is inclusive of the environment as well as any other way STEM can help improve their communities.

Last year, more than 1,600 classrooms from across the country entered the contest, and 75 semi-finalists received a technology kit – a Samsung camcorder, laptop, and Adobe editing software – to compete in the contest’s video phase. Fifteen finalists selected from that pool won additional prizes in technology as well as the opportunity to be chosen as one of five winners who were celebrated at an event in Washington, D.C.

This year, 255 state finalists will each receive two Samsung tablets and 51 state winners (representing all 50 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C.) will each receive technology packages worth $20,000*. From that pool of 51, the public will have an opportunity to choose the 15 national finalists (receiving technology packages worth $30,000*) from February 14 – March 13, 2014. The five national winners will each receive a prize package valued at $146,000* and will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. A special prize called the Environmental Innovation Award, valued at $50,000*, will be chosen by NEEF and also awarded to one of the 51 state winners. Teachers can enter online through October 31, 2013.

“I would strongly encourage teachers to make the incredibly easy first steps and enter the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest,” said Michael Lampert, the teacher from West Salem High School in Oregon who led his students to win the grand prize in 2011. “It is a powerful vehicle to launch your kids into the rapidly changing world of STEM.”

To learn more about the contest, past winners, or to enter, please visit

To download the official Solve for Tomorrow program video, go to or visit Samsung’s YouTube channel at

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J., September 12, 2013 – Samsung

Raspberry Pi Hits the Shelves at RadioShack

2013-12-19 13.22.27Raspberry Pis just became a bit easier to get ahold of in the United States. Beginning last week, some RadioShack locations started carrying MAKE’sRaspberry Pi Starter Kit, which includes a Raspberry Pi Model B, power supply, SD card with NOOBS preloaded, HDMI cable, a case, prototyping components and a print and PDF download of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi.“If we’re going to reach our goal of teaching a whole new generation of children coding and making skills it’s important that Pi should be easily available,” said Eben Upton, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. “Having it in retail alongside a great kit and documentation is a big part of that.”At the location I visited on 6th Avenue in New York City, the kit was available along with Maker Shed’s Ultimate Arduino Microcontroller Pack, and Getting Started with the BeagleBone Black Kit.

Matt Richardson


Matt Richardson is a Brooklyn-based creative technologist, Contributing Editor at MAKE, and Resident Research Fellow at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone

The Bridge Virtual Academy Utilizes Edgenuity Only

Additional Edgenuity Courses Approved by University of California

Online Courses Satisfy Criteria for University of California’s a-g Subject Area Requirements

Scottsdale, AZ – November 13, 2013 – Edgenuity, a leading provider of online and blended learning solutions, announced that a number of its courses have been reviewed by the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) and found to meet its a-g subject area requirements, with approval through the 2015-2016 school year.  The requirements outline a curriculum of key content areas, such as English, history and laboratory science, among others, that students must master in order to meet UC’s eligibility standards.

Edgenuity’s suite of courses that received a-g approval recently include Biology; Chemistry; Common Core English Language Arts; Common Core Mathematics; World History, Culture & Geography; Economics; Principles of American Democracy; and U.S. History & Geography. Psychology and Sociology were previously approved.

“Edgenuity and the University of California system share the mission of cultivating self-directed learners who are motivated toward academic achievement,” said Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity.  “We are confident that the robust suite of Edgenuity courses receiving a-g approval will support schools in offering the engaging and dynamic curriculum they need to prepare students for college and career success.”

For the first time this year, online courses had to first receive California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) certification before they could be submitted to the University of California’s Office of the President (UCOP) for a-g review.  To earn CLRN certification, online courses must address at least 80% of the course’s content standards and 80% of iNACOL’s Standards for Quality Online Courses.  The a-g requirement, established by UC faculty in 2008, ensures that students take college preparatory courses in high school and can participate fully in the first-year program at the University in a wide variety of fields of study.  The requirements are written deliberately for the benefit of all students expecting to enter the University and ensure the rigor of high school courses.

Edgenuity’s current a-g approved course list can be found at:

About Edgenuity
Edgenuity (formerly E2020, Inc) provides engaging online education solutions that propel success for every student, empower every teacher to deliver more effective instruction, and enable schools and districts to meet their academic goals. Edgenuity delivers a range of Core Curriculum, AP®, Elective, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Credit Recovery courses aligned to the rigor and high expectations of state, Common Core and iNACOL standards and designed to inspire life-long learning.  Fully flexible for use in any blended or online learning model, Edgenuity supports an environment where personalized learning is possible. With 185 semester-long courses and growing, Edgenuity has already driven outcomes for more than one million students in schools and districts across the country.  For more information, and to see Edgenuity in action, visit

Emotional First Aid Means Summoning Compassion and Taking Perspective

The Seven Habits of Highly Emotionally Healthy People

How to treat psychological injuries and improve emotional resilience
Published on July 9, 2013 by Guy Winch, Ph.D. in The Squeaky Wheel

Most of us pay close attention to our health and we treat threats to our physical well-being as soon as they occur. We dress warmly when we feel a cold coming on, we apply antibacterial ointments and bandages to cuts and scrapes, and we don’t pick at scabs as they heal. We sustain psychological injuries in life just as often as we do physical ones, but we are much less proactive about protecting our psychological well-being, than we are our physical well-being. Adopting the following seven habits and ‘treating’ common psychological injuries when they occur will help protect your mental health and improve your emotional resilience.

1. Gain Control after a Failure: Failure distorts our perceptions such that our goals seem more out of reach and our capacities seem less up to the task. Once we feel as though there is little we can do to succeed, we become demoralized and lose our motivation. Adopt the habit of ignoring this misleading ‘gut’ reaction and make a list of the many factors related to your goal that were in your control (e.g., effort, preparation, planning, different approaches you could have taken, and others). Then, consider how you might go about improving each of these factors. Doing so will not only combat defeatist misperceptions, it will drastically improve your chances of future success.

2. Find Meaning in Loss and Trauma: One of the main factors that distinguishes those who thrive emotionally after experiencing loss or trauma from those who do not, is their ability to eventually find meaning in their experiences and to derive purpose from them. Of course, doing so takes time, as does the process of grieving and adapting to new realities. However, adopting the habit of searching for ways to recognize not just what you’ve lost, but what you’ve gained as well, will allow you to develop new appreciations for your life and the people in it, to make important changes, and to find value, meaning, and purpose even if you lacked them before.

3. Disrupt the Urge to Brood and Ruminate: When we brood over distressing events we rarely gain insight into them. Instead, we replay upsetting or angering scenarios in our heads, which only increases our urge to brood and makes us feel worse (read more about the dangers of brooding here). Therefore, despite how compelling the urge to brood is, adopt the habit of disrupting the brooding cycle as soon as you catch yourself ruminating about the events in question. The best way to do this is to distract yourself with a task that requires concentration—such as a game of Sudoku, trying to recall the exact order of the stations on your bus/subway line, or watching an absorbing show.

4. Nurture Your Self-Esteem: Our self-esteem fluctuates such that we feel better about ourselves some days than we do others. But many of us become self-critical when we’re feeling bad, essentially kicking our self-esteem when it’s already down. To improve your mental health, adopt the habit of regarding your self-esteem as an ‘emotional immune system’ that needs to be nurtured back to health when it’s ailing (read more about that here). The best way to ‘heal’ damaged self-esteem is to practice self-compassion. When you have self-critical thoughts, consider what you would do if a dear friend had similar feelings. Write out what you would say to them in an email if you wanted to express compassion and support. Then read the email as if they had sent it to you.

5. Revive Your Self-Worth after a Rejection: Rejections are so hurtful we often try to make sense of our emotional pain by finding fault in ourselves. Our reasoning is that if we hurt so much, we must be really weak/pathetic/a loser/unworthy/fragile/unlovable, etc… Rejection hurts as it does not because there’s something wrong with us but because of how our brains are wired (read more about that here). The best way to ease emotional pain and revive your self-worth after a rejection is to adopt the habit of affirming aspects of yourself you value, qualities you possess that you find meaningful (e.g., loyalty, compassion, creativity, or a strong work-ethic). Make a list of such attributes, choose one or two and write a short essay about why the quality is important to you.

6. Combat Loneliness by Identifying Self-Defeating Behaviors: Chronic loneliness is much more common then we realize and it has a devastating impact on our emotional and physical health (read how loneliness can shorten your life-expectancy here). The problem is that once we feel lonely, we often act in ways to minimize the risk of further rejection by unconsciously engaging in self-defeating behaviors and sabotaging opportunities to make new social connections or to deepen existing ones. The best way to combat loneliness is to adopt the habit of identifying and challenging these self-defeating behaviors. Make a list of excuses you’ve used to avoid taking initiative in social situations (e.g., I won’t know anyone at the party so why go? They don’t call me so why should I call them? They’re probably too busy to meet up. I can’t just introduce myself to a stranger at a cocktail party). Now make a list of people whose company you’ve enjoyed in the past (go through your phone book, Facebook friends, and Email contacts) and reach out to one or two of them each day to initiate plans until your social calendar is full. Challenge yourself to avoid using excuses from your list when you feel anxious.

7. Shed Excessive Guilt by Repairing Damaged Relationships: Excessive guilt occurs when our actions or inactions have harmed another person (most often a close friend or relative) who has not forgiven us for our wrongdoing. Such situations usually have more to do with the inadequacies of our apologies than with the inability of the other person to ‘let go’ of their hurt. Indeed, the crucial ingredient an effective apology requires—and the one we most often miss—is empathy. For the other person to truly forgive you, adopt the habit of conveying effectiveapologies when you’ve done wrong. To do so, make sure the other person feels you totally ‘get’ how they felt as well as how they were impacted by your actions (read more about rendering effective apologies here). Once you’ve expressed adequate empathy, the other person is much more likely to feel your apology is sincere and to convey authentic forgiveness. Your guilt will dissolve soon thereafter.

For more about habits that will improve your emotional resilience and strengthen your mental health, check out my new book, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013).

Click here to join my mailing list and receive and exclusive gift: How to Recover from Rejection

Copyright 2013 Guy Winch

Follow me on Twitter @GuyWinch

Parents Get Involved – Local Control Funding Formula

EdSource Highlighting Student Success
New EdSource Survey: Parent Engagement in California
A new EdSource statewide survey of more than 1,000 Californians with children in public schools provides the first detailed  look at how connected and involved parents are with their children’s schools.

It comes at a time when the state Legislature has given parents a greater role in providing input on how education funds are spent through California’s new Local Control Funding Formula now being implemented in schools across the state.

Pie chart showing parent awareness of Local Control Funding Formula

The survey revealed that while parents knew little about the new school funding law, they were overwhelmingly willing to participate in decisions about school budgets — if they feel they would be heard. The survey also found distinct differences among high-income and low-income parents when it comes to evaluation of schools and levels of engagement.
In addition to providing an important baseline for parent engagement in California, we hope this information can help educators and other stakeholders better understand the obstacles to parent participation and improve their outreach as the state implements its new funding system.

In responding to the survey, California State PTA President Colleen You said that the finding that 57 percent of parents are not yet aware of the Local Control Funding Formula is a call to action. “Clearly, this finding means we have our work cut out for us in the upcoming months as we all to try to achieve widespread awareness about the new LCFF and the opportunities and necessity for parents to be engaged,” she said.

 Visit the EdSource website for the full report of findings, a ready-to-use PowerPoint presentation, and more survey data >  

Join the discussion:

If the survey results surprised you — or just reconfirmed what you already knew about parent engagement — we’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas for increasing parent participation. Join the discussion by posting your views in the comments section of thisEdSource Today article about the survey.

P.S. It is still not too late to give us your feedback: We want to hear what you think about EdSource’s work in recent months, especially our daily online service EdSource Today. Please take 5 minutes to complete the survey now. We very much value your input and appreciate your time.
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