Northwest NEWS

July 30, 2001


Guest Ediitorial: Play games with your kids for fun and learning

by David Beavers
   Whether it's football or checkers, kids love to play games. Children are able to easily entertain themselves for hours by playing a simple game that adults may find slow and redundant. Have patience parents; while enjoying these games the kids are also learning.
   Take tic-tac-toe, probably the most well know and basic game that children play. While they play this seemingly simple game, they're also learning to strategize - think ahead and anticipate the opponent's moves.
   Educational games and what kids can learn from them can be found at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory's Library in the Sky, a Web site with references to 38 Web links on games with educational value.
   Just go to and click on the "educational games" link under the "materials" menu. The range of ages for these sites varies anywhere from kindergartners to 12 year olds.
   One of the offerings is taken from "On Numbers and Games" (New York: Academic Press), authored by mathematician John Conway who has invented many mathematical games that help participants to learn. Conway explains the application of these games in real life. For instance, one of Conway's games, called Snort, consists of two participants coloring in regions of a map.
   The participants take turns filling in regions, and the main rule of the game is that neither of them is allowed to color in regions that share a border with one of the player's regions.
   The game ends when one player isn't able to fill in any more regions. (But with games that help kids learn, there are no real loosers.)
   After describing the rules of the game, Conway goes on to explain how mathematicians spent years trying to figure out some of the principles of map coloring. He also stresses its importance in the real world. By explaining its place in the world, children not only learn that what they're doing has some use, but they also know what use it has. This will help them with comprehending other everyday activities in their lives.
   Another part of the Library in the Sky site draws games from the book "The Brain Explorer," published by Owl Books. It includes all kinds of puzzles and brainteasers.
   Library in the Sky also offers mysteries that challenge kids to think, using strategy and logic to solve the mystery. There are a variety of mysteries - all challenging.
   In fact, the Laboratory's Library in the Sky is a very useful database that helps parents and educators find a variety of information. Currently there are 1,426 educational Web sites listed. The site editor picks a favorite each week. A recent pick, for example, offered resources that included online periodicals, state standards, homework help, lesson plans, test practice and school technology guides.
   This column by David Beavers is provided by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, a nonprofit institution working with schools and communities. Beavers is a journalism student at the University of Oregon and currently an intern at the laboratory.