Born Mobile – The Power of Games to Inspire STEM Learning
You can’t get around kids and mobile devices these days. According to a recent study by Common Sense Media, more than 80 percent of kids 2-8 years old use a mobile device, which is no surprise considering that households with kids own a whopping 10 mobile devices. Our lifestyles and our kids are wired for go. And, what’s occupying their mobile screentime? Games. Apps. No doubt, you’ve heard the familiar call, “Mooommmm, can I download…”
In addition to the fun factor, games can also be the gateway to inspired learning – especially in math and science. There is growing evidence that giving children a head start in developing their math and science skills can be beneficial in that they are more likely to show real interest in these subjects and they are more likely to do well in these classes at school. It’s a win-win situation for parents and kids. According to the 2012 ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, sixty-nine percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2012 did not meet the readiness benchmark levels in science and 54 percent did not meet the college readiness benchmark levels in mathematics. There is cause for concern because the future of careers points toward the STEM industries with STEM occupations projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018 compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations.
So what should parents look for when choosing a math and science learning app for their kids? In addition to checking out game reviews, parents should also look for games that offer the following:
· Collaborative/Multiplayer Features – Collaborative learning not only engages kids, but it can also help them master and retain the subject matter better.
· Engagement – Games should have engaging characters, storylines and graphics to keep kids interested and eager to continue playing.
· Multiple Stages/Levels – Part of keeping kids interested in a game involves offering multiple stages or levels of difficulty that keep things challenging, but entertaining at the same time.
· Trusted Name – Look for a trusted name and a brand, developer or network with experience offering edutainment titles for kids.
A great resource for quality kid apps is Fingerprint Play, a kids mobile network, offering a full library of engaging edutainment apps across math, science, reading and more. The following titles are a great way to grow interest in math and science and help kids learn critical skills while giving them the opportunity to play on their own, with their parents, or with other kids:
· Equator (Math) – In this multiplayer, collaborative math game, kids solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems to balance the equator. As the seasons progress, the math puzzles become more challenging.
· Cosmic Reactor (Math) – In this head-to-head game, two players compete in seven out-of-this-world math mini-games to become the Cosmic Reactor Champion. Players can customize their levels of difficulty and choose to face off using addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.
· Not Lost in the Universe (Science) – Kids travel the universe to learn about lasting energy sources (wind, sun, water and heat) in this vibrantly animated interactive story. With five chapters and three mini-games, readers help their brave explorers refuel their power cells and return safely to earth.
· Get Rocky (Science/Geology) – In this exciting tilt-and-slide adventure to the center of the Earth, Digger – a mole, father and intrepid explorer – travels to the center of the Earth in search of his son, Rocky. Digger slides and spins through six layers of the Earth – each filled with rocks and minerals to collect and subterranean enemies to defeat. Eighteen comic book movies tell the mole story, while teaching kids about location, depth and geology.
No matter which games you choose for your kids, it’s important you also get involved in their mobile experience. If the game allows, play with them. It’sa fun way to bond with your children. You can also watch your kids play and offer guidance when needed.
Mobile devices can be helpful tools for parents, and when loaded with educational games, they also become an indispensable teaching tool. As your children enjoy building their math and science skills, you can feel confident that they will benefit from what they’ve learned now and in the future.
Author: Cecilia Davis is a writer, mom and public relations consultant with more than 14 years of experience in the consumer technology and video game industry. She lives in Seattle, WA.
 Common Sense Media, “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013,” October 2013
 2012 ACT College Readiness Benchmarks
 U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future”