Life is all about balance: yin and yang, work and play, a cup of coffee to every hour that I’m awake, and placing tiny beans just right for a seesaw to balance.
Balance Beans, from ThinkFun, is a new logic game that introduces kids to elementary algebra and helps them practice those concepts. This game challenges kids to place bean tokens with various weights on a seesaw so that it will balance. It comes with the seesaw balance tray and base, 40 challenge cards, and nine bean tokens. The beans are red, yellow, blue, or orange, and stand by themselves, in a pair, or in threes.
Let’s break the beans tokens down to stationary beans and movable beans. Stationary beans are red, and are used to set up a challenge. They can’t be moved. Movable beans are yellow, blue, and orange, and kids can add them to the balance tray to solve the challenge. Since the one major rule of Balance Beans is that red beans must remain stationary, all of the other colors can be placed on the seesaw wherever to make both sides equal. All of the indicated beans must be placed onto the tray, and when the seesaw balances—you win!
The challenge cards are easy to read and show the solution on the back. There are four levels of difficulty: easy, medium, hard, and super hard. So, once kids get the hang of the game, they’ll be solving the super hard challenges in no time. The game sounds simple enough, but it takes a lot more than trial and error to complete the challenges—especially the more difficult ones. Whether kids realize it or not, they will be welcoming math concepts to complete the different puzzles. In particular, ThinkFun specifically designed the game with the fundamental principle of physics in mind: The further out a weight is from the center of balance, the more downward force it exerts onto the seesaw. So, what does this mean? As the challenges get harder, kids will be using basic algebra to solve their challenges, best explained with this illustration:
Some challenges also have more than one solution, teaching kids the really important concept that there can be multiple ways to get one answer. I’m not going to lie—I was never too fond of math. But, this game provides a really inviting way to get kids excited about math and helps them figure out solutions to problems in their own way. The game also comes with a really nice game-go bag, so all of the pieces and cards inside to take the game on the go.