You may have heard the term “gameschooling”: using tabletop games to support education. But let’s be honest: some ‘educational games’ are hella boring. Half the battle of educating our kids is gaining their interest in the first place. With many of us practicing social-isolating and COVID-19 Lockdown, there has been a collective cry from parents and carers for help! It is the reason why so many early educators talk about “learning through play”–because, seriously, we ALL want to learn through play. The trick is finding a game both educational and fun. Something like, Zeus on the Loose.
Damn, I love this game.
What is Zeus on the Loose?
Zeus on the Loose is a quick and easy card game, published by GameWright. The box says ages 8 & Up but in all honesty, if your kid can count to 10 then they will be able to play.
The game includes 56 cards and a small yellow plastic Zeus figurine. The deck itself consists of 40 numbered cars (4 cards each numbered 1 to 10) and 16 cards with various Greek Mythology deities: Poseidon, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Athena, Hermes and a single Hera card. Why? Because Hera is Hera. ‘Nuff said.
The object of the game is to play a card on Mount Olympus (the playing pile of cards), adding the numbers up to 100. Whoever has caught Zeus by the time Mount Olympus reaches 100 wins the round and receives a letter: Z-E-U-S. First player to spell ZEUS wins!
Using Elementary Mathematics to Capture Zeus
The core element of Zeus on the Loose is elementary Mathematics: Addition and Subtraction.
Each player always has four (4) cards in their hand. In turn, players place one card from their hand onto the playing pile, “Mount Olympus”. If it is a number card, the value is added to the previous card and the player announces the new total. For example, the current total is 13 so EG Zaltu plays an 8 and says “21!” The goal is to reach 100 so there is plenty of opportunity to work on basic addition with single and double-digit addition.
Now, here’s where the game is really helpful with elementary mathematics: Friends of Ten. Not sure what I’m talking about? Friends of Ten means any numbers when added together equal 10. Whenever Mount Olympus reaches a multiple of 10 (10, 20, 30, etc), that player ‘steals’ Zeus. They can grab and hold on to the Zeus figurine until someone else ‘steals’ Zeus. Or they reach 100, at which point whoever has Zeus wins the round.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Greek Mythology without the other gods interfering somehow. During your turn, you can also play a Greek God. Each of the Greek Gods comes with their own instructions: Sometimes you need to subtract from the total on Mount Olympus, sometimes you need to reverse the numbers, sometimes you need to round up or down to the nearest 10. And sometimes, you are even able to steal Zeus. The important part here is the mathematics.
There is also an extra rule for Same Number Sneak. A bit like playing “Snap”, where you match a card with the card on top of the pile. To be absolutely honest, none of my spawnlings include this rule and if you are using Zeus on the Loose to support your mathematics lessons, I wouldn’t bother with the Same Number Sneak.
Oh yeah, and when you finish your turn, draw another card. You should always have four cards in your hand. Just like Z-E-U-S.
Learning Through Play
I know there are plenty of parents out there who are homeschooling or have been homeschooling forever. I am not one of those. I am privileged enough to have a choice. Under previous circumstances, I had chosen to send our spawnlings to our local public schools, with the idea we will fill in the gaps at home with whatever ‘life-learning’ is necessary: things like comparative religion or mechanical engineering with LEGO (check-out previous Evil Genius Mum posts here).
However, a mighty large chunk of the world is either in COVID-19 Lockdown or some form of social isolation with many schools resorting to remote learning from home. If anything, this has highlighted what we already knew to be true: NOT all schools are created equal. NOT all teachers are created equal. And NOT ALL STUDENTS are able to self-motivate for learning.
As mentioned before, kids need to be interested in learning. Teachers are trained in this and many teachers are able to implement a variety of ways to reach kids in the classroom. Some parents are able to replicate this with their own kids at home, however, there are many distractions that can interfere. This is normal and we should not beat ourselves up about it. It doesn’t make it any easier but it is important to recognize the importance of setting up our kids (and ourselves) to win, not to fail.
The best tip I have seen from educators for parents/carers is to work with what you know. Find an activity you know your kids enjoy and go from there. If your kids love tabletop games, Zeus on the Loose is perfect. It is educational and loads of fun. Your kid will be learning and practicing basic mathematics and you will be helping with their learning. Go you!
If tabletop or card games aren’t their thing, look for something else. LEGO is highly versatile for this. Chalk drawings can also help. Comic books are super helpful and educational. There are plenty of ideas on GeekMom and GeekDad to round out your day. We’re big advocates for “Gaming is Good for Your Health” so why not start there?
If you like this review and want more suggestions for ‘remote learning at home’, let us know in the comments! We love gaming of all types and would love to hear what YOU think.