For those not in the know, Odd Squad is a fairly new tv show on PBS. The premise of the show is simple enough: an organization run by children which investigates odd occurrences. I didn’t expect it to be very good based on the previews but when I sat down and watched it with LittleMan, I was floored by awesomeness.
The show is essentially a sci-fi for children which also talks about basic math concepts. Very geeky, very cool. Bonus: the main character is a strong, intelligent girl yet the show isn’t inherently “girly.” The characters are divided pretty evenly between boys and girls, with both genders having a silly character as well as several examples of brilliant characters. The online games for the show are a based off specific episodes and are a great way for children to practice the math concepts they learn about from watching the show.
I recently sat down and played each of the four Odd Squad games available to play for free on pbs.org. Below you can find my detailed reviews of each of these games including math concepts covered and age recommendations.
Code Breaker is a patterning game where players collect juice-boxes. The game is narrated by juice-box loving Ms. O and is played by simply clicking the mouse. Level one is a training level, the answers are given in an effort to establish the concept of a pattern before having the player solve the patterns alone in later levels. Despite level one being ridiculously easy, the patterns grow more complex rather quickly. Some guidance is given when a new pattern starts but not much. Players can move on as soon as they complete a level, however there is the option to replay in between each level so, if a player isn’t happy with their performance, they can always try again before moving on. After about a half dozen quick levels, when the player is already working on complex patterns, the game starts to get even more interesting with new obstacles like laser beams that fry you and send you back to the start of the pattern if you don’t click the next number fast enough. After about another half dozen levels, the game changes from patterning random numbers to sequencing numbers in order, either forwards or backwards. After a few levels of sequencing, the patterns become skip counting. I’d recommend this game for children aged 6+. Younger children may be frustrated with how fast paced it is and would likely struggle with some of the more complex later levels. 3 stars.
Catch the Centigurps is a skip counting game that also introduces the concept of a number line. The game is narrated by Ms. O and is played using the arrow buttons on your keyboard. Players fill boxes (sized 1, 2, 5, and 10) with Centigurps as they run around the level, and presents are earned when certain numbers are reached. It reminds me a lot of racing around to catch as many gold coins as possible when playing Nintendo’s classic Mario. In fact, several of the levels look at lot like the underground in Mario’s World. There is no answering of math questions, no problems to solve, it is just running around and collecting Centigurps. The game is repetitive and doesn’t really expand on any math skills, though later levels do have cooler gadgets like little springs that you jump on and it sends you up into the air to catch Centigurps mid-flight. I’d recommend this game for children 3-5. Older children would likely grow bored with the redundancy and lack of challenge. 4 stars.
Creature Duty is a cute game, perfect for children who love animals. Players must care for unusual creatures such as dragons and 8-legged cats by feeding them things they like and moving them into larger enclosures when the grow. The game is a bit slow moving, having the player preform each task 3-5 times one way before slightly increasing the difficulty. Audio instructions are repeated often in the cheery voice of Agent Oscar. The game is played by simple drag and drop functions, an excellent way to have children practice mouse control on the computer or it can be made easier by using a touch-screen device. The game focuses on matching characteristics, common denominators, and simple division into equal parts (2, 3, 4 equal parts). The game does not allow for error so player must keep trying until they get it right. I’d recommend this game for children aged 4-6. Younger children may struggle with equal division concept while older children would likely be bored by the game’s simplicity and redundancy. 4 stars.
Down the Tubes is a fun game narrated by Agent Olive. The same few audio instructions are played repetitively and it can get a little annoying even for a child. Players measure broken areas of tube using a click and drag motion, then replace that broken area with an appropriately sized new piece of tube. Sometimes this is simple, as the correct size of tube is available. Other times its more complicated, and players must use two or three different pieces in order to add up to the correct length of tube. The game won’t let you replace a broken tube with a piece that is too big nor too small and players must keep trying until they get it right so, in that way, it is excellent basic addition practice. As the game goes on, there are more and more broken pieces and the game doesn’t tell you where they all are, so there is some room for error. That said, players have the opportunity to find and correct their mistakes as they go. When the player advances in levels, they earn silly new tubes that have things like pin wheels and ball pits and bubbles. These are quite amusing to watch. After several levels, the game starts getting a little more complicated with corner tube pieces that can be rotated and extra pieces that can be misleading, some levels even have multiple ways of solving the problem. Attention to detail is tested in these later levels. I’d recommend this game for children 5+. Younger children may struggle with more complex higher levels. 5 stars.
This post has been part of The ABCs of Raising Well-Rounded Geeklings series.by