STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Playing Brain Games

braingamesBrain Games ~ The Mind-blowing Science of Your Amazing Brain
by Jennifer Swanson
112 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

“Your brain is the most powerful and complex supercomputer ever built,” writes Jennifer Swanson. It’s about the size of a softball, weighs about three pounds, and looks like a wrinkled up sponge – but it pretty much runs this show we call our body.

Every chapter focuses on a different aspect of the brain: how it creates memory, controls emotions, makes decisions, and solves problems. There are plenty of challenges (can you solve a Rubik’s cube?) sidebars filled with fun facts and fancy words, and cool trivia. You’ll learn about earworms – which are delightfully different from earwigs, but just as annoying – and why heart-pumping music helps you make better decisions.

I especially like the Brain Breaks – diverse puzzles and games that provide a break from reading and a chance to kick back and play – and the “try me” activities. Want to try an experiment right now? Smile. Yup, that’s all: just smile. Smile for as long as it takes you to count to 10. Feel any better? (if not, smile longer)

What happens if you smile at other people? How do they respond? For a real challenge: try smiling instead of yelling at your brother… and observe what happens to you and to him.

There’s even a section for people with busy busy crammed full busy lives – about multitasking. Our brain might do better if, instead of trying to do lots of things at once, we do one thing for a short period of time and then move to a different task (sequential tasking). Jennifer’s “Rule of 20” goes like this: focus on one task for 20 minutes (set a timer). When it buzzes, take a breath, stretch your legs, then set the timer for 20 minutes and go on to a different task. Try this with your homework… your brain cells will thank you. But remember Archimedes’ Rule of 40: after 40 – 50 minutes of sitting, get up and move around for 10 minutes. Your body will thank you for that!

STEM Friday

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Author: Sue Heavenrich

I write about science and environmental issues for children and their families.

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