Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quick Review - Math Noodlers

Math Noodlers
Designer: Uncredited
Publisher: EduPress
Quick Review - Math Noodlers
Math Noodlers is an educational math game by EduPress, although the box lists Learning Well Games as the brand.  There are two versions of the game, one for Grades 2-3 and one for Grades 4-5.  We have both and both are nearly identical.  Grades 2-3 is in a red box and has a board with a red background while the Grades 4-5 version is orange.  The questions included in the games are different, too, but everything else is exactly the same (even the graphics on the boxes and boards).  The game is focused more on teaching math concepts in a fun way than creating exciting gameplay, but my boys both had fun playing the game.

The concept is very simple.  Each player has a pawn that they move along a path from start to finish.  The first player to the end wins, after they answer one last question.  Players start their turn by rolling a die and then moving forward that number of spaces.  The color space they land on indicates the type of card they draw: Choose It, Doodle It, Write It, or Show It.  Each card has a math problem on the back that the player must answer in the method specific to that card.

Choose It cards present a number of answers and the player must choose the correct one.  Doodle It cards require the player to draw a picture or chart that represents the math problem.  Write It cards ask the player to write the problem out on scratch paper.  Show It cards require the player to show the problem using the manipulatives included with the game (small plastic rings in different colors, called Noodle-O's).  There are also several "Wacky Cards" scattered throughout the game that require the player to do more active things, like sing, hop, etc.

If the player answers the question correctly (all the answers are included in the instruction manual, identified by a number that matches a number on the card so that an adult doesn't have to play) he gets to roll the die for bonus movement.  He doesn't draw another question card though and just gets to move forward.

When players reach the Finish space they must answer one last question.  The card type is chosen by his opponents.  If he gets the answer correct he wins.  If not then play continues.

The game is a great tool for teaching math concepts.  The Grades 2-3 version includes Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, Graphing, Money, Time, and more.  The variety of cards ensure that the players are thinking about the problems in different ways.  My oldest son prefers to do math in his head, and many times he gets lost halfway through a problem because of it, so this is a great way to force him to work out a solution using different methods.  And the variety of concepts makes sure that everything is covered eventually.

There were a few things that I didn't like about the game though.
  • The game relies heavily on the luck of the die roll.  One son rolled several high rolls in a row and because the game board is so short he got to the end pretty quickly.  My other son rolled a couple of ones and was lagging way behind.  
  • The game board is too short.  There are only 22 spaces including the Start and Finish, so a game could potentially be over after 3 rounds.
  • There is no strategy behind movements.  Something else should be happening on the board to influence movement.  Spaces or cards should have other benefits or penalties to make the game a little more varied.  Or provide a variety of paths players could take.  A shorter path with some additional obstacles (e.g. double colored spaces where you have to answer two questions to move forward or something) versus a longer path that is less risky would at least add some decision making to the game, which is a logic concept that I think is as mathematically important as any of the other concepts.
  • The components are really cheap.  The game board is typical, but the plastic pawns, die, and plastic rings are about as cheap as possible.  And the cards aren't even full card stock.  They're just glossy paper, like what you'd find in a sales brochure or a magazine cover.  The colors are bright, but if this gets lots of gameplay in your home or classroom it's likely that the cards will end up bent and dinged pretty quickly.
Overall I think the game is a good educational tool.  It'll be a fun break from worksheets or blackboard problems.  However, I don't think it's a fun game and the audience is definitely limited in its scope.  This will be fun for the age group listed, but beyond that it'll be useless.  So the retail price of $22 seems a bit high, but if you can pick up the game for around $15 it's definitely worth it for a refreshing alternative math education supplement.

Preliminary Rating: 6/10

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  First Play Impression reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first time playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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