It seems that most kids today are much more interested in playing computer games than creating them, not surprisingly I guess. Eventually these kids will come to realize that, while nobody will pay them to play games, many good companies will pay them (handsomely) to create games and programs. This activity set introduces the idea of solving a problem with a well-thought-out, step-by-step approach. And kids will enjoy doing it because it is just fun.
Everyone knows that a mouse likes to find the cheese. That is the basis of this set. Ten activity cards, containing twenty problems, show the initial setup of each problem, including a maze where the mouse has to get to the cheese. He does that by being “programmed” by the player, which involves pressing colored buttons on the mouse that cause the mouse to move through the maze, making the correct turns at the correct times. The first step is to assemble the board from the 16 pieces; this is not hard to figure out. Then you place things on the board like walls and tunnels. Then you figure out the step-by-step path the mouse must take to get to the cheese, and you layout little programming cards from which you will actually program the mouse. Then you program the mouse and press the green GO button to start him on his course. If you have entered the steps correctly, the mouse will arrive at the cheese and make a noise. Congratulations!
There is one programmable move called “action”. This will cause the mouse to randomly do one of three things, one of which is to move forward and backward. You must plan for this possibility, because if you don’t the mouse might leave the board and will never get to the cheese. This makes kids think.
As others have mentioned, sometimes the mouse doesn’t move in a truly straight line, but if you carefully align the mouse before you press the GO button, he will usually find the cheese (you might have to gently nudge him occasionally).
The ten activity cards are excellent for learning how the set works, but what will really challenge the kids is to create their own mazes and program the mouse to complete them.
This activity set teaches the value of a well-thought-out process for solving a problem using a step-by-step procedure. That’s what real programmers do too. There is an old saying among air traffic controllers: make a plan and make it work. That’s what this set teaches, and it is a great and valuable lesson to learn.