Coding Without a Computer?

I’ve got a crush on a math guy. I don’t even know him. But his bio is on the instructions to the game CodeMaster. He invented the game. I am in love with this game. I am so impressed with the brilliance of creating a game that encourages the type of logical thinking a coder uses, without having to use a computer. That’s why I’ve got a crush on this math guy.


You may have noticed this game was hanging out in the featured photo from my previous post about finding great math activities at the library. We’ve had a week to play with it, and I recommend trying it with your family. Here’s why:

  1. It’s a game. And games are, hands down, the best way to draw kids into developing logical, strategic, and ultimately mathematical thinking. It’s a playful path to seriously creative thinking.
  2. There is nothing electronic about this game. It has a “pixel-like” look to it, making it seem a bit like it’s related to MineCraft, which was attractive to the 9-year-old. The pieces are made of sturdy cardboard and plastic. It is colorful. It drew me in. It drew my boys in. Maybe it will draw you in, too.
  3. It is accessible. It’s starts off with beginner level puzzles to solve, then it builds in complexity.
  4. It is a “single player” game, but you can make it a team activity. Play this together if your child isn’t interested in doing it alone or if your child is too young to do it by herself. The box says it’s for “Ages 8 to Adult”, but we all know that’s a recommendation that can be ignored. My 5-year-old enjoyed this game, too, but differently. He was in charge of reading the map and interpreting which pieces would be needed for each piece of code and pulling them together for his brother. The 9-year-old took charge of putting the pieces in order, while the 5-year-old looked on, asked questions, and periodically offered his ideas.
  5. It does not lead to whiny demands for computer game time.

I’m going to return Code Master to the library tomorrow. Then YOU can borrow it!

(Mathematically…I don’t even know where to begin with this one. The overarching topic here is logic. That’s all coding is. This game teaches basic code logic without confusing it with language or too much abstraction. Your child will get hands-on exposure to flow charts and coding concepts like “while” loops, “if-then-else” loops, and conditional branching, and because your child will be touching game pieces and moving through a physical map, these concepts will take on a concrete quality that wouldn’t exist on the computer. From the concrete game, your child can build mental models of coding concepts. Another way to say it: on the computer, these concepts are being learned through the eyes…but in this game, the concepts are being taken in by the eyes and the fingers, while being bolstered by whatever social interaction is happening with you and siblings. Multiple modalities = better, deeper learning and understanding.)


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