Tag Archives: Teacher story

Logic Games liven up a High School math classroom!

Our Customer Service Mailbag (sounds more important than email account!) got a serious gem recently! The letter below comes from a teacher who has amazing things to say about using ThinkFun games in the classroom… 

 Logic Games liven up a High School math classroom!

To Whom It May Concern,

I just wanted to express my satisfaction with your company. I am a high school math teacher, and I see students of all types have trouble with basic problem solving skills every day.  These students are actually quite good at math most of the time, but they struggle with logical thinking and deductive reasoning. Your games are not only fun for the students, but let them develop those deductive reasoning skills no matter what skill level they are at.  Each game is well thought out and unique that it keeps the students interest.  My students love to try different challenges in their free time on each of the games.

Might I add, that if it were not for the durability and prices of the games, I would not have them in the first place.  I found your website helpful and easy to order.  I appreciate your support and helping students in schools, especially the Teacher discount code.  Without the discount and the great value compared to other companies games, I may not have had the opportunity to purchase what I have.  The games are built strong and not “cheap” so they last and aren’t easily broken.  I like the bags that help contain the pieces, and the rings on the card decks help keep cards from turning up missing.  Overall such a great value for teachers who have little money to spend on their classrooms in the first place.

I have placed several orders over the last few weeks trying to get a “class set” of games.  I need a few more as I have about 25 students at any given time, but I am seriously considering doing a Logical Thinking unit with your games and some logic puzzles and such with my pre-algebra class. I need to figure our a way to grade that, and I will put good use to your free games and activities as well. Anything I can do with them to help them think about reasonable answers and logic will help.

I just wanted you and your company to know what kind of impact you are making in schools and individual students.  I wish I would had discovered you sooner.  As a teacher, I like to know what impact I have on students as that is the drive that keeps me doing what I do well.  I thought you might like to hear that your games and brainteasers are very beneficial in a classroom, even for high school students.  Thank You!  Keep up the good work, and please continue supporting teachers and students across the country!

Southern Boone County Schools Math Teacher

Ashland, MO

 

Are you an educator who uses games to teach?! I’d love to hear your story – please share!

Also, on the discount referenced in this letter, Teachers save 20% with offer code:TEACHERS on the ThinkFun website! Feel free to share with friends who use games to teach!

Take it from a middle school teacher – playing MathDice makes math FUN!

Who knew 5 ilttle dice could bring math to life – and make it so fun?! I love this story shared by Christan Martin, a Gifted Teacher at Colonial Heights Middle School in Virginia!

 

Enter Room 121. Students are seated at desks facing the chalkboard. The teacher stands at the front of the room working math problems. You hear only the teacher’s voice, and you notice glassy eyes and expressionless faces on the students. That was before MathDice

 Take it from a middle school teacher   playing MathDice makes math FUN!

One day, Mrs. Carter asked if I would like to teach a few lessons on mental math strategies. Having just received 100 new sets of MathDice from ThinkFun, I knew I had just the activity for her class. I explained to her the rules of the game and the skills and concepts to be developed with the activities. Mrs. Carter was very skeptical. Games in math class? And not on a “reward day” or after a test? Hmmm…

 

Monday morning, I entered Room 121 and asked the students to use three given numbers and any operations to create expressions close to equal to a given target number, and oh yeah, without using a pencil and paper. Students were baffled. They had never been asked to solve a problem that had more than one right answer. They seldom were asked to solve a problem without showing their work. After a few minutes, I asked students to share their thinking, not their answers. Finally, after discussing the different strategies students used to solve the problem, students were asked to share their answers. The glassy eyes were beginning to disappear.

 

Next, I explained to the students that they would use the same strategies to solve problems during class, but instead of solving problems in a textbook, they would play a game. Students perked up! After explaining the game, discussing the materials to be used, and playing a couple of practice rounds as a class, students were ready to play! Partners were chosen and MathDice packs were handed out. Students were on their way!

 

As I walked around the room, I saw students solving math problems in different ways. They began using numbers flexibly to create expressions. Most importantly, they were excited about math! No longer was the teacher the only one speaking. The room was filled with voices excitedly shouting out answers and explaining their strategies to one another.

 

By the end of the week, Mrs. Carter was just as excited as the students. She saw how playing MathDice and completing the MathDice activities was not only fun for the students, but it was also a learning opportunity for students. Students were using mental math strategies, just like she wanted. Mrs. Carter began to see that games and hands-on activities were not just for Fun Fridays or to fill the time after a test. Instead, they are a way to build enthusiasm and motivation about mathematics and to provide students with opportunities for discovery, critical thinking, as well as problem solving using multiple operations, exponents, and even fractions — mentally!

 

Now enter Room 121. Students are engaged. Students are sharing strategies with one another as they sit in pairs or groups all over the classroom. The teacher circulates around the room listening to students and asking questions to encourage critical thinking and flexible use of numbers. The glassy eyes and expressionless faces have been replaced with smiles and bright eyes as math class has become a place to not only solve problems but to also have fun! Let’s thank MathDice!

ThinkFun Games Ignite Minds in a 7th Grade Math Class!

This story is shared by Lori Mullarkey, an incredible 7th Grade Math Teacher in Nebraska City!

 

Because so many students feel defeated before even giving math a chance in 7th grade, my classroom philosophy is to encourage students to like math more at the end of the year than at the beginning. I have found that doing several hands-on activities and giving time for problem solving games does just this! ThinkFun games help students feel a sense of mastery in math which they have seldom had before. The beginner levels meet students where they are at and give them a sense of accomplishment as they pass each challenge. Students continue to be challenged as they move through the leveled cards. I have several students who are proud and excited to tell me that they just passed every card in the deck!

 ThinkFun Games Ignite Minds in a 7th Grade Math Class!

My first experience with Think Fun Games was at a High Ability Learner’s (HAL) conference. One of the sessions focused entirely on problem solving through single player games. They walked us through the general plot of each game and simply gave us time to play. It was only a few minutes before I realized I was addicted myself and had to have these games! I knew that all my students, not just my gifted learners, would love playing these games. I hoped that these games would help my at-risk students find some fun and motivation in school (even if it was from problem solving games), so I purchased a small handful just to test them out in my room. The result has been amazing and I soon had a wish list a mile long for my classroom!

 

As the year progressed, I noticed that students would ask to play the games as soon as they entered the room. As other students began watching, they too would start begging to play and “calling” particular games at the beginning of the period. Knowing I did not have enough games for each student, I told students once their assignment was completed, they could choose a game for the remainder of class. Once all the games were chosen, they could play quietly in partners. Sure enough, I had almost all of my students focused on finishing their homework in order to play the game of their choice! Our MathCounts club also loved them so much we began fundraising in order to purchase more games for the room.

 

Over the past 2 years, I have collected nearly 40 different single player games and created a small problem solving station in my room. In addition to the games, I also purchased a cube storage unit with 5 different drawers. Each drawer is a particular type of game. Drawer 1: Navigation Station: Rush Hour, Roadside Rescue, Stormy Seas, etc. Drawer 2: Shape It Up: Shape by Shape, Block By Block, Square By Square, Tangrams, etc. Drawer 3: More Think Fun Games: Games that were created by Think Fun but I didn’t have enough of the same type to designate a drawer. Drawer 4: Educational Insight Games (similar to those of Think Fun), Drawer 5: Other: for smaller brainteasers (think fun also has several of these). Since these are designed to be single-player games, students simply take them back to their desk to play once their assignment is finished. There is also an eight-foot table in the back of our room for when partners or small groups want to work on a game together.

 

At the beginning of this year, I took a class period to explain the problem solving behind each game to all of my classes. Students were told that once they completed their assignment they may ask and select a game to play for the remainder of the period. About once a quarter, or before holidays, we have a problem solving day instead of having class. I set a game on each desk, and students shift over one seat every 10 minutes trying the various games in their row. At the end of the period, we spend time discussing the problem solving used in various games and students discuss how they would rate particular games.

 

I also am the sponsor for our MathCounts club, and students frequently request problem solving game days! The eighth grade students involved in MathCounts said they joined just for the problem solving games and the sixth grade students also love the chance to play them. Since there are not as many students as a typical class, we can focus a day on geometry and do the shape puzzles, or have a rush hour morning instead of practicing math problems. They simply can’t get enough!

 

Classroom favorites include: any of the Rush Hours, Shape by Shape, Roadside Rescue, 36 Cube, Hot Spot, and Chocolate Fix. As said before, most students stick with a particular game until they have mastered all of the cards. These games not only challenge kids, but my husband and I master a card at each level before bringing them to school for the students to play.

A 5th Grade Math Teacher Uses Games to Motivate All Learners!

This post is shared by Bryan D. Williams, a 5th Grade Math Teacher in Washington, D.C.

 

Much has been written about playing games in the classroom. There have been numerous articles that speak to the powerful ways that games can motivate students to be more engaged in the teaching and learning process. Other articles have talked about how games can be used to reinforce skills and concepts already learned, review skills and concepts that are currently being covered, or be a preview of what is coming up. Problem solving games in particular provide students an opportunity to develop and strengthen problem solving strategies. In addition, as students work together and play various games in the classroom, they are learning from each other and developing multiple strategies to help them become increasingly more effective problem solvers and more accomplished mathematicians.

 A 5th Grade Math Teacher Uses Games to Motivate All Learners!

Bryan's game shelf!

As a classroom teacher, I have seen how the use of games in the classroom can provide a fun and non-threatening environment to help students develop and strengthen problem solving strategies. Over the past five years, I have worked in schools that had a core mathematics curriculum that emphasized the use of games to help reinforce skills and concepts being taught throughout the year. The range of games, the challenge that they provided, and the ability to work with the fellow classmates was all the motivation they needed. While students worked together, it was amazing listening to the kinds of conversations that were sparked by collaborative and at times the competitive nature of the games being played. Having students engaged in these kinds of meaningful activities also allowed me an opportunity to pull small groups or individual students to help provide more individualized instruction.

 

 

Many of the games being played would be out and available for students to use throughout the day. Our daily schedule included free choice time and, when other assignments were completed, choosing to play a game with a friend was almost always an option. The ability to make choices like these in the classroom became very empowering for my students, and they took the responsibility seriously requiring very little support. Many of the games being played were also differentiated and could be used as remediation, review, or extension. The games became an integral part of our classroom and my students benefited greatly from the experience.

ThinkFun’s GridWorks Game Enriches a High School Math Class Curriculum!

This fantastic story is shared by Lisa Kosanovic, a Math Teacher at Holyoke High School in Massachusetts.

 

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.

 ThinkFun’s GridWorks Game Enriches a High School Math Class Curriculum!

Several years ago, I bought ThinkFun’s GridWorks game 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!

Students in Key West use games in Classroom Learning Centers

The following post is shared by Eli Jannes, a 4th & 5th Grade teacher at a Montessori Charter School in Key West, Florida.

 

The most consistent pressure I feel as an educator is a restriction of my time. There are so many demands on our students that it is virtually impossible to grant them the time they need to pursue their interests. This is never more apparent than when we are engaged in ThinkFun Game Club, a classroom program that uses games to teach problem solving. The children anxiously await their scheduled class time, devour the games at each station, and always leave wanting more. There is an unspoken disappointment that we all share whenever their session ends. It always feels as though they were just hitting their stride and delving deeply into their thinking when ding, time is up. It feels as though I’ve given them one bite of an ice cream sundae then pulled the spoon away.

 Students in Key West use games in Classroom Learning Centers

This past year has been an interesting journey for me. After 17 years in traditional public school education in New York and Virginia, I began working in a public Montessori charter school in Florida. My ThinkFun games have followed me down the coast. I am a rookie when it comes to Montessori philosophy but as I work and learn, I realize that there are many basic scientific philosophies that are a part of this method that make a lot of sense to me. The most extraordinary of them all, though seemingly obvious, is the directive that the interests of the child should guide their learning. Holding true to this premise has meant finding ways to incorporate ThinkFun games so that the clock is not dictating children’s engagement. Instead, I observe students interacting  and try to find particular games or strategies that we can use in the classroom, throughout the week. My decision is based on their interest as well as what we are learning in the classroom. At the end of the session, I bring 2 sets of a particular game back to the classroom.

 

The students in my classroom work independently and in collaborative groups throughout most of the day. There are times when they are called together for teacher guided lessons but much of their work periods are spent completing activities that they have added (or have been given) on a weekly work chart. Recently, we’ve added ThinkFun as one of their options. Like a learning center, children engage with the Think Fun games throughout the day. Only two games are available so that this time is used seriously, and not for a leisurely gathering. The limited availability also ensures that those who are selecting the material are truly motivated to work with it.

 

Providing access to a particular ThinkFun game within the classroom allows the children to persevere with challenges they didn’t have enough time to solve earlier and facilitates prolonged engagement in problem solving strategies. There is no limit on the time they spend with the game. They are allowed to use the materials for as long as they maintain a focus and even return to them later if they have an Aha! moment and need to test something out. It is during this extended engagement that my students have demonstrated the most growth in their problem solving abilities.

 

Additionally, using a particular game within the classroom allows us to share a common vocabulary and experience as we discuss relevant mathematical concepts. For example, as we move through our unit on geometry, we are able to use Shape by Shape to discuss the design and movement of various polygons. Students are able to make connections between the various puzzles and particular math problems they have solved. They understand the relationship between their classroom learning and Game Club, becoming advocates for using games that challenge their thinking as a vehicle for their learning.

ThinkFun Games Engage Every Type of Learner!

The following post is shared by Sarah Baumgarten, a 2nd grade teacher at Birchview Dunes Elementary School in Wasaga Beach, Ontario.

 

I was introduced to the ThinkFun games in September 2007, and I was “hooked” on the games the first time I played them! I found them challenging and fun. I was a little skeptical as to how my “very active” grade two class would be able to focus on the games for long periods of time. I was envisioning pieces being thrown or lost with a few fights mixed in between. I introduced the games to my class at the end of September with a demonstration session in which my students learned four of the six games. I was absolutely amazed at how much they loved the games and how engaged they were. Nothing was thrown or lost and we only a few well placed arguments with the Zingo game.

 ThinkFun Games Engage Every Type of Learner!

I have one little angel who usually needs more attention than others. He was able to play all the games without any prompting and was engaged for a full 40 minutes. The games allowed me the time to play and become involved with other children who may not always need me.

 

We have continued to use the four games once a month. However they wish they could play them everyday. My students are now being “lent” out to teach other teachers how to play the games and hopefully they will get as much out of them as we have!

ThinkFun Games Build Pride and Self-Confidence in Strategies Lab

This guest post is shared by Stephanie Lewis, the Gifted Specialist at Clermont Elementary School in Virginia.

 

We have been using ThinkFun games for several years in our Strategies Lab at Clermont Elementary. All students in grades K-6 come to the lab at least once every six weeks for a lesson with me, the GT Resource Teacher. It’s been a wonderfully positive experience for our school. Children and teachers love the games and always leave wishing for more time and asking when they get to come again.

 ThinkFun Games Build Pride and Self Confidence in Strategies Lab

When we first started the lab, our primary goal was to provide students with a fun, highly motivating way to talk about thinking. Playing strategy games like Rush Hour and Square by Square would not only challenge students’ minds in new ways, but would teach them life skills such as perseverance, collaboration, metacognition, and strategic planning. It’s been amazing to watch students of all different ages and skill levels participate with equal enthusiasm and be willing to take intellectual risks when sharing their strategies. But what’s been most rewarding for me is the sense of pride that I see in each student when they master a particular challenge. They take each task seriously and keep trying until they get it. With every success they experience playing the games, they are learning the importance of effort and developing a “can do” attitude. That is so important to every student, but especially to those students who may lack confidence in school. Every student gets to shine in Strategies Lab.

As I was walking a class out to the lab one day, one of the students came up to me and asked if we’d be playing a particular game (I can’t remember which one.) He was excited when I said yes, and said, “I really like that game. You said last year that I was a master at that game. I can’t wait to play it again.” I remembered the comment I had made, but had no idea how much it had meant. I felt so good. I now see lab time as an opportunity to make each child experience the thrill of accomplishment.

We are continuing to develop our Strategies Lab program, using ThinkFun games as our guide. It’s been very helpful to have a common language across grade levels for talking about thinking. And it’s been extremely rewarding to see students persevering, thinking critically, creatively tackling challenges, discussing their strategies, and making real-life connections — all while building their confidence and sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Breaking news! ThinkFun games replace Lego as students’ activity of choice!

The following post is shared by Karen Fougere, Head of Mathematics at Armbrae Academy in Halifax, Nova Scotia!

 

“They psychotically love it”, said Armbrae’s Grade Two Teacher, Megan Acheson, when asked about Thinkfun game play sessions. “The students are so excited by Rush Hour that they ask to play it whenever there is free time; it has replaced Lego!”

Tara Burt, a Grade Six teacher, set up five Think Fun stations for the students to explore. They immediately became engaged in the problem-solving activities and enjoyed increasing the level of challenge. One student always asked for Cover-Your-Tracks, because he wanted to reach level 20.

 Breaking news! ThinkFun games replace Lego as students activity of choice!

Tara then invited the Grade Four’s, partnering each younger person with a Grade Sixer, who then became the teacher explaining the rules and discussing strategies. “It was wonderful to see how well the students investigated possible solutions together,” said Tara.

The students really love the games; they find them challenging and fun. These games provide success for those students who find written problems more difficult. They are able to visualize and solve it which in turn creates a confidence building experience. Although some of the students get frustrated, others learn to persevere.

Overall the experience for the children (and teachers) has been positively fun!

Students share games with residents at a local retirement community

This fantastic store is shared by Allison McGee, a 7th and 8th grade math teacher at All Saints Catholic High School in Kanata, Ontario!

I began using the ThinkFun games with my grade 7 and 8 students four months ago, and they are loving it! In fact, the first thing I usually hear from my students now is, “are we doing Game Club today?!” We usually use Game Club once every couple of weeks, and during each session we focus on developing a different social skill and problem solving skill.

P4180108 300x225 Students share games with residents at a local retirement community

In addition to the in-class Game Club, my school also has a math club that meets once a week atlunch, and our focus is the ThinkFun games the kids already know and love from Game Club. Both Game Club and math club now provide opportunities for students to work together, have fun, and develop their thinking skills all while playing great ThinkFun games!

P4180098 300x225 Students share games with residents at a local retirement community

I recently took my grade 7 math class on a field trip to a retirement home to share the ThinkFun games with the residents. This was a great success for everyone involved! Some of the residents simply enjoyed watching the students play the games, while others got right into solving the challenges themselves.


As a teacher, it was so rewarding to see my students interacting with the residents and sharing their knowledge of a particular game. The Game Club games were great conversation starters for the students and residents, and the discussions that naturally emerged as they played helped them get to know each other a little better.

P4180095 300x225 Students share games with residents at a local retirement community

This visit was a fantastic opportunity for my students to share the mind challenging games they’ve been using in Game Club with friends in a new community. What an incredible outreach experience for my students. This trip was a wonderful experience for everyone involved, and we hope to go back soon!