Brain Savvy is a game created to promote cooperative learning and citizenship while reviewing any chosen educational material. The Classroom Edition includes one flexible magnetic game board (19½" x 15"), 6 magnetic "brain" pawns (¾"), 36 sorting chips in six colors numbered 1-6 (1¼"), 6 dry erase markers (each 3¾" in length), 1 primary-colored one-minute timer (2¾" in length), 1 six-color die (¾"), 1 number six die (¾"), and an Instruction booklet with a Quick Start Guide. All supplies fit neatly, albeit snugly, in the included velvet pouch. The markers come with an attachment clip on each lid, allowing them to slide onto the edge of the game board. The various pieces include the vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The board is a soft sky blue with a white game pathway and wide stepping spaces, and it is both dry erase and magnetic. All six brain pawns can fit on one space simultaneously, if necessary. Four "award ribbons" are strategically placed on the board for creative use. They are white in color, allowing for teams to color them in at various points in the game. The only additional thing necessary to play the game is review material provided by the teacher. Players move along the game board as they successfully answer questions or complete a task, and teams work together cooperatively to compete for the lead. For home school use, the board can be placed on a refrigerator or freezer, a display board area, or a table. In any of these instances, the magnets stay secure. And since the spaces are numbered, game piece placement can be recorded to keep track of progress, just in case any pieces are moved inadvertently.
Designed for ages 6 to college age, the game is adaptable for use with any subject, for a single age group or multiple age groups, and for various lengths of time. It is designed to be played over a span of time. It could be played for as long as the entire school year, or as short as a quarter, or even less. In a larger classroom environment, a teacher might use the numbered/colored sorting chips to designate teams, but for homeschool use, we chose to use the colored chips in a trivia game format, tying each color to a certain subject and each number to a specific question. In regular game format, dice would be rolled to determine both the color and the number for each review question. However, those who are bothered by the use of dice could use the sorting chips,pulling them out of a bag to determine which question to ask. Students can compete against siblings regardless of age difference, because different review questions can be asked for different student levels. A student might also compete against himself by using a different color for each subject, so that his knowledge of subjects competes. Will his purple brain for language arts move ahead of his yellow brain for math? This might also help parents determine areas needing improvement. As teams move through the board, the team that is leading at the end of a review session has the honor of coloring in one of the four award ribbons on the board (or coloring all steps on the path moved through in that session). There are 41 spaces on the path of the board. With 6 brain pawns, this could allow for as few as 246 questions if all pawns were used and all questions were answered correctly. But because it is unlikely that all questions would be answered correctly, the amount of review material that could be covered is phenomenal. Brain Savvy offers an incredible tool in any classroom, whether homeschool, co-op, private, or public school. The ability to record pawn placement easily, portability, and magnetic factor also make the game very handy for any group meeting in different locations, as co-op or smaller homeschool groups often do.
We played games with our 10-year-old and 17-year-old and with our 4-year-old and 10-year-old, using completely different review material so that each child could work on his own level while still enjoying a little friendly competition. Individual children also played alone, as we experimented with some ideas for single use of the board. We stored the board on our freezer between uses and moved it to the table while playing with the younger children. A magnetic hook placed near the board allowed us to store the velvet pouch with necessary materials conveniently. When playing with our 4-year-old and 10-year-old, we used flash cards with pictures and words and simply called out a particular animal with all cards laid out. The younger had to find the right card; the older had to spell out the word. We could also play this game in traditional flash card style, holding up single cards and awaiting either the quickest answer or simply an accurate answer from each child.
Our son with autism only recently began to understand the positive value in competition and input from others. He had little use for such things previously. This game helped him understand, and eventually enjoy, encouragement from others as he moved his pawn around the board. For individual play, we created lists of questions for different subject areas and assigned each subject to one of the six colors. He had one brain for each subject area, and each day he would respond to a question from each one. This helped identify areas in which he needed more difficult material and provided insight into problem areas. And most importantly, it gave him a visual representation of areas where he needed to improve and areas he could be excited about excelling in. This aspect, probably more than any other, sold us on the Brain Savvy game.
One con we found was a particular quote about cheating included in the Activity Booklet: "Cheating is often seen as a creative way to win. Rather than being critical, simply keep a written record." Perhaps this attitude might be understandable in a large classroom where truly knowing the culprit or following through on consequences might be difficult, but we would not condone anyone in our household creatively adjusting the game board to his own advantage.
Brain Savvy was incredibly helpful to our family; we were able to accomplish great review sessions with our children. I would also note that the company is positive to work with. The sand timer in our package arrived broken, and they promptly replaced it and agreed to make adjustments to their packaging to ensure this does not happen for others.
We believe Brain Savvy provides an incredibly open-ended opportunity for families to review any material they choose. All of our children enjoyed the game, regardless of age, skill level, or special needs. The educational value and the flexibility to work with all ages and subjects make Brain Savvy an excellent investment for every homeschool!
Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2009