I recently read a post on Jamey Stegmaier’s personal blog about gaming and learning. I have been teaching through how the brain works in my anatomy and physiology class. Our brain is a fascinating organ and is able to do things that still baffle us. One baffling thing is the associations we make between items and how those associations help us to learn. Gaming is a great way for our brains to make those associations and learn from them. Playing board games will not only add enjoyment to your life, but it may also make you a better learner.
Crossword puzzles are a basic version of this idea. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends them as an important way to prevent that horrible disease. Why? Because the brain has to make several associations there: the word, the boxes, and their relationship to the other boxes. There may be several words that fit in the box, but only the right word fits in the context of the other words. A well-designed crossword even makes the clue itself a baffling first hurdle for the brain. Counting boxes, counting letters in words and relating them to other letters in other words – all very good for the brain.
Convert this idea to board games. Take a simpler game like Ticket to Ride. In Ticket to Ride, the brain has to make associations between the game board, the color of tracks, and the color of cards in hand. Also, there are the high-value tickets you are trying to complete. Next, the opponents rails are in the way and players must work around them. There is a lot going on! First-time gamers will come away from that game thinking, “Wow, I did something.” After long weekends of gaming, I will sleep for 10 hours that Sunday evening. The brain will work you out!
What are some other games that seem simple but are great for the brain? What recommendations would you make?