Learning is child's play!

Some computer games can help sharpen your mind-body coordination. We look at a few.

Playing games is an integral part of growing up. And the smart ones know that learning is most fun - and seems effortless - when it is woven into games. Be it football or cricket or mental games such as chess, scrabble or sudoku, games are undeniably a part of growing up. They go with the "fun" parts of the brain, and obviously, harnessing them to learn stuff can be a great thing.

There are all kinds of games that you can play on digital devices like computers, smartphones or tablets, including virtual versions of physical games like cricket. While most are fun, and some quirky, the best ones can make us learn things - even dreary stuff like trigonometry. We sample a few today. Some are free, some carry a price tag.

Yushino

This is where numbers meet scrabble, a word game. You play against a random opponent from either Facebook, Twitter or just someone on the system. You can do a pass and play with a friend across the table. The game requires you to add and subtract numbers, laying them out so that the sum of two digits is the third digit, and so on. To maximize scores, you need to plan where you put your tiles and where you branch off to add more numbers, like in scrabble.

If you have a child who is having a tough time adding, subtracting or multiplying, Yushino is a fun solution.

Paper Toss
Android, and iOS; free

Wind speed, trajectory calculations and trigonometric equations to determine how to launch a missile to hit a target. If you try to explain all this to a child, chances are that s/he may not be interested. Put them to play paper toss, though, and it becomes a different matter. The game requires you to toss a piece of waste paper into a basket at the other end of a room. Wind conditions, trajectory and other factors are given, and the whole trigonometry exercise suddenly falls into place. While the paper goes into the basket for a perfect shot, with it sails a new kind of knowledge into a kid's mind.

Angry Birds Space
Android, iOS; free

There has been enough coverage of Sunita Williams and her space missions. But how exactly does zero-gravity impact movement? What is gravity? Why did Isaac Newton have to discover it, and why didn't he just eat the apple that fell on his head? Explaining gravity to a child can become a fun exercise with Rovio's Space version of Angry Games. Gravity, orbits, effect of gravity on movement… everything starts to make sense - in fact, probably easier to understand than the way Newton put it!

Android, iOS; free

Rovio found that it is not just the birds, but the pigs are popular with players as well. So they put out this new game, which puts you at the centre of mechanics and automobiles, figuring out how to build an automobile that will carry your pig.  The player needs to figure out the things that the vehicle needs to take it forward and backward, and even gain lift-off. Does the pig sit in the centre or off-centre? Once you play bad piggies, resolving mechanical engineering problems become that much easier. The next time you try a do-it-yourself project, you are more at ease, and spot-on.

Footnote
Video games are often criticised but studies say that spending a certain amount of time playing games - even video games - is good for the brain. People who spend a lot of time playing video games are found to read small print better, and are able to better make out gradients in colours.

Do remember, though, that an excess of anything is bad. So if you set out to play a game, do remember to take a break, whether you are a child, an adult, or an elder.