BrainSnack comes in a very big box full of big shiny cards with problems that are supposed to challenge your brain. According to Prim-Ed, “BrainSnack will work the brain and amaze the eye with 300 graded problem-solving cards.” So, were my eyes amazed? Was my brain worked? Well, I’m not that important, so I took it to my very clever 3rd, 4th and 5th classes and got them to check it out.
Relevance to curriculum aims: 3/5
Problem-solving can be found as a skill on almost every Irish curriculum subject. Children are encouraged to use higher order thinking skills and these cards certainly require hefty problem-solving skills! The cards come under 3 skills levels (one to three stars). There are a number of different types of problems to solve. Before I unleashed a random problem on the children, I had a look through the “one-star” cards myself. Now, although I would claim to be a fairly logical kinda guy, I found a lot of them very difficult.
I found a problem that suited our mathematics topic (division), which showed some chicks and a load of broken egg shells. The problem asked how many chicks were missing from the picture, (see below). The children found the problem to be challenging but they enjoyed the fact that the problems could be seen on the Interactive Whiteboard as well as on the card.
I suppose it would be fair to say to say that all the cards have some relevance to the curriculum. However, it can be a little difficult finding appropriate cards to suit what you’re teaching.
Teacher usability: 4/5
There are 300 cards with 3 levels of difficulty and from my own observations, they are pitched at quite a high level. I believe children would need some really good grounding in problem-solving skills before attempting the cards.
As for the teacher, I think they also would need some good grounding in problem solving skills to solve some of the problems. There were several cards that I went through that I found incredibly difficult and some I just couldn’t solve. Luckily, on the back of every card is the solution to the problem and an explanation of how to solve to the problem.
Furthermore, the software that comes with the pack is brilliant! They work really well on an Interactive Whiteboard and children can work at the board trying to problem solve.
Value for money: 2/5
Reduced from €150 to €127.50, this product is fairly expensive. 300 problems represents a cost of almost 50 cent per problem. Given the fact that each problem comes with an Interactive Whiteboard element, if used once per week in Senior Classes, there is enough stuff here to make it a worthwhile pack. It’s also a lot more attractive than a book, which is probably more motivating to the average child. In fairness, the product should be enough for 4 years work, which makes it a bit more reasonable. I realise it would be difficult to reduce the price much more than it currently is, but right now, it may be a little prohibitive to many schools’ budgets.
This is about as complete as any educational package could be. It comes with strong, robust resources (the cards), great software to support the cards, excellent teachers’ resources and good differentiation opportunities. There isn’t really anything else you could add to the box.
BrainSnack is a challenging set of cards with super resources. However, the problems are very difficult and may be pitched a little too high for some primary school pupils (and teachers!) If a school needed a new way to teach problem-solving or had a very high ability class, this would be a worthwhile addition to the classroom.
(Oh, and for the record, 2 chicks were missing from the picture)