Tag Archives: Chocolate Fix

Building 21st century thinking skills through game play in Singapore!

This week, ThinkFun has had the privilege to host a group of primary school teachers from the Bukit View Primary School in Singapore… these teachers are amazing!

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The Singapore delegation poses at a local school - The yellow school buses provided an authentic "American School" backdrop!

Bukit View is a prototype school in Singapore. They are tasked to come up with innovative ways to teach 21st Century Thinking Skills. In response, they have developed an incredible program called MBA (Mass Brain Activities) that uses brain games to help students stretch their thinking and build new skills… that we connected was certainly fate!

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The group puzzles over a difficult Rush Hour challenge

Having learned about our games and education initiatives, this group obtained funding to spend a week with us, learning from our experience with past programs, exploring ways to integrate ThinkFun games  to further stretch students’ thinking, and getting new inspiration to continue to develop their program!

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Learning to play TipOver

We have spent the week playing games, visiting local schools, and sharing ideas on how to stretch game play to draw out higher level reflective thinking from students –  it has been a whirlwind, and we are very excited about what is to come!

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Working out a complex Chocolate Fix challenge

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Playing River Crossing

We visited two wonderful local schools to expose teachers to the Strategies Lab classroom model and meet with the inspired teachers behind the program.

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At Colvin Run Elementary the group met Barbara Ross, the visionary teacher behind Strategies Lab!

We are so excited to have met this group and to be working closely to help guide their program… using our games to inspire thinkers all over the world is a very big goal, and this connection brings us one step closer!

Happy Candy Month!

June is National Candy Month!

To celebrate, do your waistline a favor and indulge with a mind challenging plastic option… Chocolate Fix!!

chocolate fix 300x300 Happy Candy Month!Try your hand at this fabulous (and calorie-free!) game of logical deduction by playing online

Click here to see how an innovative teacher used this game to teach high school students the basics of making a geometric proof, pretty neat!

What is YOUR favorite candy?  Please share! I personally have never met a peanut m&m that lived to tell the tale… icon smile Happy Candy Month!

Dr. Frank Lester was in attendance at NCTM and stopped by the booth!

“Problem Solving is Problematic”

Just returned from a fantastic trip to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Expo in San Diego! Here we unveiled our new online Brain Lab and met loads of excited, innovative educators whose students will test program during the month of May!

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At the show, ThinkFun CEO Bill Ritchie presented not only the new Brain Lab, but also his thoughts on problem solving and the issues and roadblocks this field has faced over the years. I’d like to share a summary of his message here, and invite you to join the conversation!

My wife Andrea and I started ThinkFun (then called Binary Arts) in 1985, and our vision has remained the same, to create the world’s best logic puzzles and thinking games. Since our foray into educational programming with our Game Club program, ThinkFun education initiatives aim to help players build thinking strategies and problem solving skills.

In today’s standards-driven world, however, promoting a problem-solving program without measurable results is a tough sell. I’ve since come to understand that the reason we struggled to prove our programs improved problem solving ability boils down to a simple truth…

“Problem Solving is Problematic”

Trying to claim a program teaches problem solving skills can become problematic for the simple reason that “problem solving” is not well defined in educational terms.

According to Dr. Frank Lester, a retired math education professor from Indiana University and leading authority in the field of problem solving research,

“Since the publication of the NCTM Agenda for Action in 1980, Problem Solving has been the most written about, but least understood, topic in the mathematics curriculum in the United States.”

 

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Dr. Frank Lester was in attendance at NCTM and stopped by the booth to say hello!

As we set out to develop Brain Lab, we looked outside the education world for guidance… and hit upon research being done by cognitive psychologists on Executive Function, which feels a lot like problem solving minus content learning.

While pushing forward with this, we were contacted by the Bunge Cognitive Control and Development Lab at U.C. Berkeley studying the topic of Reasoning Ability. This team had just completed a pilot study using games including Rush Hour and Chocolate Fix with elementary schoolers in Oakland. After 8 weeks, students recorded an average 10 point increase in performance IQ!  Read more

Based on this research, the team is framing out a comprehensive set of studies on fluid reasoning (the ability to tackle a novel problem). They’ll be measuring changes in brain function and IQ… and want to use our Brain Lab as the basis for their studies!

We’ve spent a great deal of energy exploring, linking to, and picking apart concepts like problem solving, executive function, and fluid reasoning in order to get to the truth of what it is our programs genuinely do for children… and we would love to hear your thoughts!

Does “problem solving” still feel like the most genuine claim? Does training reasoning skills feel like a worthwhile endeavor? Please comment and share your perspective!

Happy Math Day!

This morning I had the pleasure of joining McKinley Elementary students in Arlington, VA for their annual Math Day!

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Playing Rush Hour makes everyone smile!

Math Day is a fabulous school-wide celebration of mathematical thinking, during which students literally wear their love of numbers on their sleeves (and often their faces!), decking themselves out in number-themed clothing and painting their favorite digits on their faces and arms!

And the icing on the cake… the day is spent playing mind-challenging ThinkFun games!

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Chocolate Fix was a hit! Students built logical deduction skills and worked up an appetite for lunch as they played!

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This Hoppers player has great taste in games... and sports teams :)

While older players enjoyed games like Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, Hoppers, and many, many more, younger students had a blast playing games like Hoppers Jr, S’Match, and Ducks in a Row!

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Who can make a S'Match?!

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The S'Match Spinner can withstand even the most energetic whacks!

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Who will be first to get his Ducks in a Row?

Our designer Josh (that’s right, the tall one from Toy Fair!) brought a prototype of a new game we’re developing, and we had a great time testing with expert kindergarten critics!  It’s amazing how much you learn about game play when you get it into the hands of a child, and kids light up when they have the opportunity to be “official product testers,” such fun!

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Guess who came along for the ride?  Zingo to Go! Check out our Facebook Page to see more photos of the places this new game has traveled!

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Zingo! to Go celebrates Math Day with some new friends!

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Things got a little zany near the end...!

I always love the opportunity to get into schools and see our games in action — what a great Math Day this was!  Do you have a favorite math game?  Please share!

How to Spice Up an Algebra Class? Just Add Games!

This post is courtesy of Lisa Kosanovic, a Math Teacher at Holyoke High School, Holyoke, Massachusetts

*Note: The GridWorks game referenced here is the precursor to the current Chocolate Fix game!

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I teach high school math in the sixth poorest community in the nation, and for us, math class is too often about passing our state’s standardized tests. While many of my students lack basic skills, I often see a high level of reasoning and problem-solving skills that I want to develop and encourage.

Several years ago, I bought ThinkFun’s GridWorks game (*now Chocolate Fix) for my own children, who loved it. Soon thereafter, I was working through a state test problem with one of my Algebra I classes, and I realized that the problem drew on exactly the same skills that GridWorks did! After several attempts to recreate the game using overhead transparencies, I contacted ThinkFun and asked if they could send me sets of the GridWorks pieces. I knew that if I had a set for each student, I could simply put the challenges on the chalkboard using colored chalk, and my students could work the problems at their desks.

What a success! Even the most reluctant of my students enjoyed using this game, and several came up to me after class to talk about it. One of my Pre-calculus students said she was pleasantly surprised by how much she had to think on the most challenging puzzles (I put 10 challenges on the boards around my room, including the two most difficult), and by how much fun it was to think hard in that way. Another student with serious attention issues insisted on starting with the most difficult problem, and he worked diligently through an entire class period. When he did not finish the problem, he asked if he could come back during the next class to finish, and when he returned, he stayed with the problem until it was completed correctly!

My only regret is that there are not books and books of GridWorks challenges! With GridWorks, I saw many otherwise-unengaged students using math skills to solve problems, and enjoying themselves at the same time. I will use this with my students every year to teach them problem-solving skills and show them that math can be fun!

*Read how another innovative High School math teacher took this same game, now in Chocolate Fix form, and used it to teach his students to make geometric proofs!

Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Here’s PROOF!

The following is a post by guest blogger Sean Gregory, a math teacher at Napa High School, Napa, CA

fix 006 300x199 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!Games are a normal part of my classroom. I have always loved games personally and believed that I would be a better teacher if I put a part of myself into my teaching. My students from the past 20+ years will remember playing all sorts of gambling games, Jeopardy!, and treasure hunts. I’ve even adapted several off-the-beaten track games like PitchCar, Hamsterolle , and Elchfest into full-room class activities. While these games were vehicles for fun, they were more a source of diversion from the mathematics problems that I loaded the play with.

As a teacher of mathematics, I know that some games come with built in traits that I would love to exploit in class. So, like many others before me, I have incorporated games like Mastermind and Clue into my room to build my students’ deductive skills. I was pleased by the opportunity that I gave my classes with these games, but I also felt that the games did not play well given my restraint on time and my large number of players.

fix 004 200x300 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!I wasn’t really looking to replace Clue or Mastermind when I went to the ThinkFun workshop at the 2009 NCTM National Convention but that is exactly what happened. ThinkFun’s Chocolate Fix puzzle was a clever, compact, pure deduction puzzle. While its appeal to most people might be the fun that they would have with cute little plastic pieces of chocolate, I saw my opportunity to use it as an aid to my Geometry students who believed they could never produce a deductive proof.

Perhaps I would have seen Chocolate Fix’s application to my class on my own, but the workshop offered  ideas on how to implement the puzzle in a classroom. The activity that spoke the most to me was ThinkFun’s idea that we should not only complete the puzzle, but also share the order in which we used the clues to figure  out the solution. Suddenly I wasn’t playing with a puzzle but was seeing a plastic chocolate manipulative that could help my students prove triangles congruent.

People are natural problem solvers, but in a math class students suddenly lose their confidence, ability, and desire to work things out. Surely if I can finish a Chocolate Fix puzzle and know that I used the clues in the order 3-5-2-1-4, then I can form a geometric proof with vertical angles, SAS, and CPCTC. I was determined to convince my classes that the puzzles they were completing in Chocolate Fix were harder than many of the proofs that they could barely start.

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From 9 plastic chocolates, a mathematical proof emerges!

I had no money to put into buying Chocolate Fix games, so  I passed out scissors and had the class cut out pieces to make their own games. It is a tribute to the kids’ desire to play that they eagerly cleared all these hurdles without complaint! The class finished their hour happily working the puzzles.

The next day, I encouraged the students to solve the puzzles with their cut-out pieces. About half the class gave up on the pieces and just made it a pencil and paper thing. Towards the end of the day, desiring some product, I challenged the students to pick a puzzle and share the order that they used the clues AND write about why they made their choice.

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A student's written proof provides a map of his problem solving steps!

After school I was shocked at the quality of the written explanations (often with diagrams) I had collected. My Geometry classes do push written explanations but I had never seen such quality so early in the year. It was clear I was on to something.

The class’s excitement for the puzzle grew and grew. They looked forward to our days with it and showed their enthusiasm by giving me frequently spectacular written explanations of their puzzle solving. I put Chocolate Fix questions on exams. I dazzled the class with my own (real) set of the puzzle, and by the end of the first semester had convinced the school’s parent club to buy a class set of 36 puzzles.

As the semester ended, I put my last Chocolate Fix problem on the final exam right next to questions about trapezoids and triangles and nobody seemed to think it out-of-place. I know that I have found the game that will be part of my deductive math classes for the rest of my career.

Three months later my students and I think of Chocolate Fix as “our puzzle,” a game we enjoy playing in class knowing that other math students are not so lucky.