Dumber Nunchers, or Genetic Decline among Number Munchers Clones

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Gums like your grandpa...I supposed he lost his teeth on too much hard math.

Where the action happens: at the intersection of DINOSAURS AND SPORTS. POW!

Number Munchers: Vanished About the Same Time as Dinosaurs; Yes, I Know I’m Getting Old.

“Munchers” was a series of educational games produced by MECC through the 80’s and 90’s. I passed through the digestive tract of elementary education just in time to catch classics like Number Munchers, and MECC’s more famous non-Muncher title, Oregon Trail, whenever my class took a privileged jaunt down the hall to the hi-tech and new-fangled Apple IIe computer lab.

Like anything that shaped a generation, Number Munchers is subject to copycats, whether motivated by nostalgia or by the desire to occupy the original product’s commercial niche. MECC–or the Learning Company, which acquired it–vanished from the face of the Earth in 1999, and who knows whose intellectual property that little green…uh…whatever-he-is…is. So a search for “Number Munchers” on the Internet, the App Store, or Google Play will return several…tributes, I guess we can call them if we want to be kind? If being kind bores you and you’d rather be honest, what we find is a handful of slightly-off trademark knock-offs, all of them as weak compared to the real thing as a Go-Bot was to a Transformer…I’m dating myself again aren’t I? Continue reading

Algodoo Does Phun Physics Stuff, Educationally

Algodoo: the Algoryx Physics Engine for Education

Think of Algodoo as a virtual playground. Algodoo brings the sophisticated Algoryx physics engine to anyone’s computer or tablet, to learn or to play–and the boundary between the two is pretty blurry no matter how you use it. Watch the magic unfold in this demo vid from Algodoo.

Continue reading

Study Putty: Chemistry Activities for Home and Classroom

“Memorization” is a foul word in education. Students hate doing it. Teachers hate that their students spend so much time trying to cram data into their noggins when the point is really the concept, not the vocab. But this doesn’t change the fact that mastering ‘vocabulary’ — whether it be definitions, abbreviations, symbols, or formulas — is a crucial hurdle students must get over.

“Critical thought, evaluation, and synthesis all sit on the backbone of vocabulary.”
Rachel Watson,
Professional Academic Lecturer, Dept. of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming, non-fan of rote memorization, and creator of her own open courseware

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Matching names and formulae of common polyatomic ions.

Easing the student’s memorization burden is the idea behind Study Putty, our set of online learning activities currently under development and available for students to use.

Study Putty provides several straightforward ways to memorize information. It’s not a game or a sim, it’s just a variety of memorization activities for fundamental facts prerequisite to mastering important concepts. We are starting with the subject of chemistry and looking to grow into other fields. Our chemistry activities are designed to get the dirty job of memorization done so the student can move on with labs, with class, with life. All of our activities are free to use. Continue reading

Study Chemistry with Study Putty

A New Chemistry Study Tool

Study Chemistry with Study Putty

The Stud: Hearts melt like putty in his charming arms. Well, actually he melts like putty because he is.

Master the following at Study Putty:

  • The Elements
  • Common Polyatomic Ions
  • Acid Nomenclature
  • Base Nomenclature
  • The First Ten Straight-Chained Hydrocarbons

Learning-Laboratory is proud to present its fledgling and freely available online learning activity: Study Putty.

Like clay in your over-stressed fist, dear student, the learning tools at Study Putty will be moldable to your desires, both for content and for style. As we are starting out, we are limited to two game types (matching and fill-in-the-blank) and to a handful of topics in chemistry. But we intend to expand.  Continue reading

Polyatomic Ion Study Materials

Polyatomic Ion list

View PDF, HTML, or click the image above to enlarge.

We offer two free resources to study polyatomic ions.

A Polyatomic Ion List

Sometimes when it comes to studying, simple is best. This polyatomic ion table can be used as a classroom handout or for self study. It can be viewed online or printed. If printed out, it can be neatly folded in half so only the names or the formulas (with charges) can be seen.

We’ve made a downloadable PDF version, and also a webpage version of the polyatomic ions list. Continue reading

Periodic Table Apps – Two Free Learning Games Reviewed

High school and college students have a number of free apps available to help with chemistry class. After browsing the App Store I selected two periodic table apps that were free, high quality, and which seemed efficacious for learning. These selections can aid a student who is rehearsing the elements for an exam, or anybody who would like to be more familiar with the periodic table. Continue reading

PhET Provides Interactive Learning for Chemistry

PhET does not stand for Physics Education Technology. Once upon a time it did, but not since they branched out into learning tools for other subjects like chemistry. The PhET team at the University of Colorado in Boulder has long set the standard for online simulations for the sciences.

Their Flash simulations provide learning opportunities both for the chemistry classroom and for the student at home struggling to understand a concept. I picked through their catalogue of free chemistry sims in order to review a selection of what they offer. Continue reading

Dimensional Analysis Made Easy

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck 557 kilograms per hour, in an eight hour work day. Give answer in megatonnes.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck 15.5 kilograms per minute in an eight hour work day? Give answer in megatonnes.

Dimensional analysis is not the first thing Mr. Spock does when the Starship Enterprise accidentally travels into a new universe or timeline. That is not what we’re here to learn about today.

Unfortunately. Because that sounds interesting.

Instead, we have what is also commonly called “the factor-label method” and simply “unit conversion.” Dimensional analysis is the method that is used to get an answer in the correct units of measurement in problems relating to math, chemistry, and other physical sciences. At its most simple, it can be solving how many minutes are in two hours, or, on the more complex end, it can be finding how many moles there are in three cubic meters of argon.

So are you stuck on your homework? We’ve assembled a few resources to help you with the factor label method. Continue reading

Teach Creatively! Reaching “Hard to Reach” Students

A C Bilbrew Public Library. Image from County of Los Angeles Public Libraries

A C Bilbrew Public Library. Image from County of Los Angeles Public Libraries

[Edit 4/14/14: If you came here looking for a blank multiplication grid, see this post for our PDF times tables.]

Three Free and Easy Ideas

During the 2007-08 school year I was a tutor with an agency serving the Los Angeles Unified School District under funding from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A pre-test selected three California state standards that I was meant to enforce in each student, all of whom were unwilling and less than thrilled with school in general. I was on my own in terms of teaching materials and, feeling sorry for my bored kids and sensing the inefficacy of plain old worksheets, I found myself flexing my creative muscles to generate solutions, which I would like to share with any tutor or teacher who needs some inspiration. Continue reading

Sig Fig Rules!–Master Your Significant Digits Here (A Learning Game Contest Example)

[Edit 09.05.13] SigFig is now accessible through our primary chemistry learning web app, Study Putty.

In the preceding weeks we launched our Learning Game Contest, seeking submissions of science/math learning game concepts and offering the prize of a $100 Amazon or iTunes gift card along with the chance of seeing that idea implemented in a playable game. With the intention of demonstrating the sort of concept we’re looking for, and to show how your concept could become a working game, we recently published Sig Fig Rules! online.

If you have ever taken a chemistry course, whether in high school or college, you may remember the lesson on significant digits. If your response to being asked to identify significant and insignificant digits was, like mine, “Discrimination! Who am I to tell a number his existence is insignificant?” you, like me, might have benefited from a learning tool such as this. Continue reading