Music, games, and other resources for your geeky kid

I’ve recently had friends and family ask me for resources for their geeky kid, whether it be for math, science, or programming.  Here is a compilation of music, games, websites, and activities you can provide for your intellectual child.

Music

They Might Be Giants- Here come the 123s” and “Here comes Science.”  These two children’s albums from the famous alternative band teaches kids to count and add, defines words such as meteorite, all while providing catchy tunes that both parent and kid enjoy.  Below is one of my favorite songs:

What is a shooting star?

Classical Music- Studies have shown some correlation between classical music and math scores. Starting your kid early to enjoy classical music can open them up to matching patterns and even motivating them to take up a orchestra instrument.  I highly suggest Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart.  Trans Siberian Orchestra also has done a Beethoven tribute for those that like more electric music.

Beethoven’s Last Night- Trans Siberian Orchestra

Board Games

Equate: Think Bananagrams with Math, great for training kids (and adults) for quick, simple arithmetic.

Blokus: Fantastic visual-spatial game.  Place your polyominos matching at least one corner to another piece.  Try to block others while still being able to place your pieces in an efficient manner.

Pandemic: For older children, Pandemic is a co-op strategy board game where you work as a team to stop a virus from destroying the world.  Good for teaching biology of viruses and how they can spread, while also teaching how to work together as a group.

Video Games

Author’s note: I am a believer in moderation.  While video games can be a great teaching tool, too much of it can hinder children’s imagination. Use sparingly for education.

Minecraft: It goes without saying that Minecraft is a digital world of legos.  Can be great in teaching kids how to build and create without spending the cost of Lego sets.  However, video games can’t replace touching and feeling objects in the real world.

Math Ninja: Available on iOS, Math Ninja puts you into a world where you must solve math problems to beat waves of enemies, while also being able to throw ninja stars and flames at enemies.

Other

Khan Academy: Amazing resource for children who are self motivated.  Compilation of videos that teach math, computer science, history, and more. Highly recommended for homeschoolers or public schoolers that want an extra challenge.

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Reading and Writing (From a mathematician)

Most people when I tell them I’m a mathematician would be surprised to hear that I love reading and writing as well.  This culture seems to put people in two camps.  Math people and non-math people.  Math people (according to culture) are very logical people who have no creative ability at all.  On other end, non-math people are illogical and express themselves well in words and art.

The problem is no one person fits in either category.  I realize that I am a rare breed.  It’s not often a mathematician also takes great joy in writing poetry, fan fiction, and reading copious amounts of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. The fact is, all these things are important. While I’d be the first to say that mathematics is not prioritized in our culture, I also believe you need a balance.

As a future homeschooling teacher/parent, I want to give my students/kids a balanced approach to learning.  Yes, I want them to excel in certain subjects (math and science notwithstanding), but I also see the importance of a love for reading and writing.

I see the importance for creative thought.  You see, most of the greatest discoveries in math and science were made by creative people.  People who thought outside the box, people who weren’t bound by the current theories of math and science.  It’s in creative thought that game developers come up with Angry Birds or Temple Run.  It’s in creative thought that Mandelbrot discovered fractals both in mathematics and nature.

Therefore, I will encourage my kids to read and write creatively.  To encourage their imagination.  You see, even though I am a mathematician and a structured style teacher, I had a huge imagination as a child.  I would sit outside for hours thinking myself a hunter with my bow and arrow, trying to catch dinner for the family.  Later in my life, I would write pages of poetry (mostly to get out angst) and write stories of Star Wars fan fiction.  In just middle school, I wrote dozens of poems and over 40 pages of fan fiction.  Yet, I still loved math and science.  Even today, I love to read and write.  I read about 50 books a year and still write blog posts and poetry.  It keeps my mind creative, it keeps my mind sharp with eloquent vocabulary.  It keeps my brain working as I imagine Middle Earth or the Star Wars Universe.

Oddly enough, I never had to be told to read or write these things.  I just did it once I was provided with many books at my disposal.  Growing up, we only had 2 channels on the tv.  We had an SNES but that was my brothers.  Most of my time outside of school was spent playing outside in fair weather and reading/imagining inside during the snow storms.  I was encouraged to read, because that was the main form of entertainment growing up.  iPads didn’t exist.  I had nothing to distract me from the pages of all my books.

It’s in these moments that I realize how sometimes technology distracts us from the simple pleasures.  I find myself being contained by the video games I play or Facebook posts.  But I need to step out sometimes, write a story, read a book.  I keep physical books so I’m not distracted by notifications that I sold an item on ebay or that so and so got engaged.  It’s a good reminder to spend an afternoon with a good cup of coffee and a book or blank journal, and fill it with my imagination.

Let’s never have our creativity stifled.  It’s these creative minds who brought us Apple products, video games, and movies.  Remember that you can be one of a logical mind, and also be of a creative mind.  It’s this combination that proves to be the most essential both in life and the workplace.

Parental Adaptability

As a new parent, the word “adaptable” becomes one of the most important weapon in a parents’ arsenal.  My son is almost 5 months old, but he by no means has any sort of routine.  Every week is extremely varied, because of the simple fact of rapid development.  One week, he is happily playing on their playmat no problem.  The next week, he learns to roll over only to get stuck and the peaceful playing is gone once again.  This is where adaptability comes in.  Because my child is changing each week, so must my routine.  Not only is playtime different, but with the introduction of solid foods, it brings a whole new variable into the game.  What foods to try?  How much each time?    Do I schedule in specific meal times?

These changes in the weeks make for an exciting life as a stay at home mom, but it also makes it so I must adapt.  Today, I realized my son adores Sesame Street, which now allows me to stick him in his bouncer, put that on, and I can get some much needed chores or relax time in.  Now, I’m not one for wanting tv to be a solution to anything, but sometimes, you need that extra half hour in your day to get things done undisturbed.  Last week, he was content on his playmat or bouncer.  This week, he needs a distraction such as a toy or show.

One day, he’ll thrive on routine, want the same books read to him, the same breakfast, the same movie.  I know it’ll be taxing to read Goodnight Moon for the 5th time in a row in one day.  So today, I cherish the fact that each day is so different, each week I must adapt, I must find what works for my child that week.  It’s so much fun, hard work, and keeps me on my toes.