Developing critical thinking skills turns lessons from a mere relaying of facts into a conversation by which students begin to understand their world. The phrase “don’t play games with me” is about to get a turnover. Play games all you want—your brain (and especially your students’ brains) will thank you for it.
When your students learn to recognize patterns and develop problem solving strategies, their probing questions and insightful answers will enhance instruction in every subject you teach. Gaming is a great way to develop these kinds of skills. From cognitive skills like strategic thinking and problem-solving to abstract reasoning and spatial awareness, gaming flexes plenty of mental muscles in kids (and adults) of all ages.
The following are a few short lists of great tablet games that develop and refine critical thinking skills. They’re separated by grade levels, and are among some of the best ones out there.
At this grade level, puzzles are best as reading skills are still in early development. These games involve using spatial reasoning for problem solving.
- Amazing Alex by Rovio Entertainment involves creating toys and tools from household objects to battle cardboard robots and clean Alex’s room.
- With The Tortoise and The Hare, puzzles and memory-match games improve retention and spatial reasoning skills.
3rd Grade—5th Grade
At these grade levels, many students possess basic reading skills, and mathematics now involves all four basic operations.
- 24 Game by Suntex International takes the classic math card game to the digital realm, with students using the four basic operations with four numbers for a sum of 24.
- Analogy by NTH Fusion uses word and picture analogies to build spatial and verbal reasoning.
- Trainyard by Matt Rix calls upon students’ spatial reasoning to guide trains to their stations.
6th Grade—8th Grade
Pre-algebraic equations should be a snap for students who are used to critical thinking.
- Math Doodles by Carstens Studios has math games for all ages, but also introduces students to an unknown variable.
- 7 Little Words by Blue Ox Technologies offers one clue each for a set of 7 words, which should be familiar to crossword puzzle fans.
- Brain Teaser Extreme by Uwe Meier offers a diabolical twist on the classic tile puzzle for the ultimate spatial reasoning challenge.
Critical Thinking Games for High School
These games use more complex situations, making for a good opportunity for students to learn to eliminate superfluous information. They can also serve as the basis for interdisciplinary lessons.
- Civilization Revolution by 2K involves developing complex strategies for global supremacy, using historical contenders for domination. Students will balance the varied needs of their citizens against the schemes of their rivals.
- RoomBreak: Escape Now!!! by gameday Inc. seems simple: there is a room in which the students must find the exit. But between them and the exit are traps, frights, and lots of objects that prove to be of little help.
- Splice: Tree of Life by Cipher Prime Studios will use students’ knowledge of cell structure to test their spatial reasoning.
- Nine Gaps by Quadion Technologies is a cross between an algebraic equation and Sudoku. It’s part strategy, part mathematical reasoning, and all fun.
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