August 2009


Who hasn’t dreamed of harnessing the power of the mind for good or evil. Well now you can practice for the future! Mattel is releasing a game that is akin to something out of science fiction. Mindflex is a an obstacle/dexterity game in which you move a ball through a series of obstacles…. WITH YOUR MIND!

Using technology similar to that of an EEG, the game uses sensors that you wear on a headband and connect to your ears which register changes in your brain’s activity when you concentrate and relax your thoughts. These changes control a fan that adjusts the height of a ball. The harder you concentrate, the higher the ball floats and as you relax your thoughts it descends. The goal of the game is to guide the ball through different obstacles set up around a ring. Using your mind to control the height of the ball and your hand to control the ball’s movement around the ring, you need to coordinate the two activities to successfully navigate a particular course.

While this carries a higher price tag than most games (approx. $80) it seems to offer some fantastic potential for applications within the school. Science classes studying human physiology can harness and experiment with the electrochemical aspect of the brain. Physics classes have a new tool that is assured to keep students’ attention and what a toy for technology. Mindflex has the making for a successful marriage of curriculum and play, allowing students to develop understanding and mastery of content and skills through use and interaction as opposed to passive reception and memorization.

I hope to acquire a review copy to bring in to schools so that I can get feedback from students and educators and provide a more detailed recommendation for when this becomes available. If not, I will be sure to pick a copy of this up. Either way, it seems that Mattel has a winner with Mindflex.

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Fauna

Designed by: Friedemann Friese

Number of Players: 2 to 6

Grade Levels: Middle School and Up

Length: 45 Minutes

Curricular Connections: Animal Science, Geography, Metrics and Measurement

Investment: Low
Return: High

I recently had the chance to see one of this year’s Spiel des Jahres nomineesĀ  being played at a gathering of gaming friends and was enraptured by the simplicity and curricular strength of this game. Designed by Friedemann Friese, whose game Power Grid I also featured here a while back, Fauna is a game of animal knowledge and educated guesses. Each turn, players have the chance to bet on various characteristics of an animal; this could be weight, body length, height, tail length, or geographic location.

The game board is a map of the world with several scales of measurement for each of the varying characteristics of the animals. None of the placements are exact but are instead larger areas or ranges. Players take turns placing their guessing cubes on the board and will score points both for placing correctly and for placing in proximity to the correct guess. This is where educated guessing becomes a factor because students will be placing based on their general knowledge and experience in the game. As they find answers to animals they know, they can begin to use that knowledge as a reference point for determining the statistics of other animals. Students are not only building up their knowledge base of animals, geography and measurements, they are also developing important test taking skills for making educated guesses.

With over 300 animals to play with, Fauna proves a novel way to approach a handful of curricular and life skills in a fun and exciting way and would make a welcome addition to any program supporting math and science programs.