Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review of Joyce Herzog's Dice Fun in a Bag

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I had never heard of Joyce Herzog until the opportunity arose to review some of her products, and *boy* does she have a lot of great products! Choosing my potential favorite looked like it might be a challenge...until I saw her very cool Educational Dice Bag.  I have a son who loves dice, so being able to incorporate dice games into his homeschooling looked too good to be true.

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What Comes with Dice Fun in a Bag?

Joyce Herzog's Educational Dice Bag comes with three different dice sets in one bag.  The dice sets include the following:
  • Rolling Math Games
    • 1 Numeral Die
    • 1 Number Word Die
    • 2 Colored Dotted Dice
    • Instructions
  • Deca Dice Math Games
    • 1 Numeral Deca Die
    • 1 Dotted Deca Die
    • 1 Number Word Deca Die
    • 1 Double Deca Die
    • Instructions
  • Alphabet Dice Delight
    • 1 Alphabet Die
    • 1 Vowel Die
    • Instructions
  • Math Operations Die
Believe me when I say...these dice had my son at, "Hello!"

How We Used the Dice

These dice are recommended for ages *not* under 3...other than that, I think that all ages would have a blast with them.  They are truly the most portable fun we have had in our house in a long time.  Moreover, while they are definitely educational, there is nothing about them that remotely feels like school.  To that end, we didn't use them as any part of our formal curriculum, but I did tell the kids to play with them and tell me what they thought.  While the dice come with tons of suggestions for learning and play, I was curious to see what my kids would come up with on their own.

Here are my observations:

1.  Nicky (nearly 10) carried these dice around with him like talismans.  Carried? No - carries - he still does after six weeks.  That means that I can count on him having them when we find ourselves stuck somewhere doing errands.  Score one for OCD fixations! How wonderful that something so small can pack such a great learning punch.  To wit --

2.  My kids made up games of Scattergories with the alphabet die.  They didn't know they were doing it.  They haven't played Scattergories.  In the car, at the doctor's office, at their grandparents' house - they would take out that awesome die, decide on a category (things in the Iliad related to the letter "A" - okay, that's my fantasy talking.  Their categories usually had much more to do with breeds of dogs, kinds of natural disasters, and names beginning with the rolled letter.  Theirs were okay - mine would have been awesome.), roll the die, and then take turns naming things beginning with that letter.  It was kind of ridiculous how long they could keep it going in some cases!

3.  Letter combinations - using the alphabet die and the vowel die, my kids would roll both and then have to come up with a word that began with the letter rolled on the alphabet die, followed by the letter on the vowel die.  The longest, most esoteric, or most interesting word was the winner.  So, if a "p" and an "e" were rolled, some obvious words like "pet" were eschewed, as they were easy and boring.  If, however, a "v" and a "u" were rolled, the kids really had to think.  There aren't too many words that easily spring to mind (in fact, vulture is the only one the kids came up with - as I write, I can't actually think of another one! Oh, yes, vulgar. And Vulgate. Does Vulcan count? I can't even describe how these dice and the games that naturally evolve get your creativity going!).

4.  The math dice - oh, the math dice! The math dice are awesome.  First of all, they are beautiful. Second, their school applications are really cool.  I have to be honest, though, my kids are wordsmiths, first and foremost (I don't know where they got that).  While I didn't have to prod them to play with the letter dice, I did have to remind them that we received other dice as well! There are lots of great ideas that come enclosed with the math dice, but so far, I have used them in very utilitarian ways.  My kids just finished taking the Iowa test, and I used the dice to help my 8 year-old twins brush up on their facts.  I had them roll the number word die, the numeral die and the operations die to solve facts.  It was a nice change of pace for them and it engaged their brains differently from a basic fact practice worksheet or computer game.  It took the pain out of fact practice (mostly) and they really loved the unknown of seeing which operation they would be performing based on the roll of the die!

The Verdict

This is one of the coolest products I have ever seen.  So many kids have a fascination with dice, especially multi-sided dice.  Some kids are allowed to play RPGs, and multi-sided dice abound.  Some kids aren't, but woe to the parent whose kid gets a look at a 100 sided die! There are fewer things more fascinating! Joyce Herzog has found a way to capitalize on something that kids naturally love.  The shaking of dice in your hand, the spilling them out, the seeing what comes up -- all of these things combine to make dice games winners with kids.  With this product, kids won't think about the fact that they're learning - I promise they won't.  

All three dice bags, plus the math operations dice, cost only $23 and can be purchased from Joyce's website.  She has tons of other really different learning products, too, which she was generous enough to share with the Crew, so be sure to read all of the reviews by clicking the banner below.

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