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Educational Board Game Review: ‘Magic School Bus Math Explosion’

Board games come with a wide variety of conclusions like collecting the most money or cards, getting past a finish line, or defeating a common enemy. With just about all of them, the victory is largely abstract, floating in the minds of the players. The Magic School Bus Math Explosion from The Young Scientists Club has the greatest end-game ever to grace tabletops: exploding a volcano! While it is not an actual volcano, it is a wonderful feeling not only to call out “I win!” but also to dump a load of baking soda into the vinegar-filled volcano at the…

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Board games come with a wide variety of conclusions like collecting the most money or cards, getting past a finish line, or defeating a common enemy. With just about all of them, the victory is largely abstract, floating in the minds of the players. The Magic School Bus Math Explosion from The Young Scientists Club has the greatest end-game ever to grace tabletops: exploding a volcano!

mathexplosiongameWhile it is not an actual volcano, it is a wonderful feeling not only to call out “I win!” but also to dump a load of baking soda into the vinegar-filled volcano at the center of the board. Players will all enjoy seeing a classic science experiment as the acid mixes with the base, producing bubbles and overflowing liquidy sludge (red food coloring may be added for special effect). As the “lava” is sodium acetate, cleanup of the bowl around the volcano is easy afterward with just some soapy water.

Math Explosion itself is an educational mathematics game. Each player receives a differently colored cup that is placed on the start square. The board comes with two sides: a yellow “Speedy Game” where each player has his or her own track leading to the central volcano and a blue “Extended Game” where players work their ways around a shared track all around the board. Players take turns answering math questions and moving their cup one space forward each time a correct answer is given. Squares tell when to add a scoop of baking soda into the cup, building anticipation as players race to create the final eruption. Bonus Card squares give players the opportunity to hop forward or perhaps even back, adding an element of chaos to the game.

While most educational games have a limited number of cards, Math Explosion has players make their own cards. The box comes with several pages of paper printed on one side with school buses, with other colors and designs available online. Parents are able to go to the Young Scientists Club’s website to create randomized math question cards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Cards can be made perfectly to suit a child’s level of difficulty with the automated system using guidelines of how big to make the numbers. Since they are simply printed-off cards, creating a new batch as the child’s learning advances is as easy as printing an email. Each player can have his or her own stack of cards with their own difficulty level, making it a great way to study with different age groups.

In addition to math and chemistry, the board is loaded with volcanological facts and tidbits like “The inner core temperature of the earth is hotter than the temperature of the sun!” Four of the Bonus Cards direct players to move to the corresponding squares for Hawaiian, Strombolian, Vulcanian, and Plinian eruptions, all different kinds depending upon intensity and composition of the volcanic blast. Talking about and researching these types volcanoes can open up a whole new dimension to learning.

Math Explosion is an educational game for two to four players aged five and up. Ms. Frizzle, Liz, and all the Magic Schoolbus kids join in to give the board a fun motif. The game itself is a solid tool in practicing math at any level, and parents can even use the board with language flash cards or history questions to make studying any subject a blast.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.
  • Aziz Makhani

    Jeff Provine has certainly introduced a fun and educational game. In this year of the World Cup, quite possibly the biggest in the World Cup history, another board game could offer a different type of educational experience. KickShot Soccer Board Game is based on the soccer theme, but more importantly the game features animal characters, many of which are endangered. Character biographies and motivational posters of KickShot can be the basis for inspiring young people to learn about animal science, geography, world cultures and applied statistics. Website: http://www.kickshot.org.

    Aziz Makhani, creator of. KickShot Soccer Board Game
    Moscow, Idaho