Games That Can Make All Kids Smarter

- Silvia Bunge - Neuroscience and childhood learning expert, U.C. Berkeley
- Bill Ritchie - CEO of ThinkFun games

Education – National





pledged of $10,000

Successfully funded on Oct 20th

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February 24th, 2014 – Press Release

View the full Press Release announcing the winners of this challenge.

February 14th, 2014 – Winners Announced!

Click the Winners tab to view the winners of this challenge.

January 18th, 2014 – The Competition is Closed!

Stay tuned to hear more about the games submitted, and find out about the winners!

Our Challenge

The Problem or Opportunity

We know that reasoning skills are very important for school achievement, and that play is a powerful vehicle for learning. But not all children or schools have access to top-quality games that tax reasoning skills.

The Solution

Reasoning and logic games that require no materials (purely social) or can be constructed at low cost out of common household items or art supplies, where the necessary instructions and/or templates can be easily downloaded from the Internet.

The Impact

Children all around the world given access to the power of games to boost reasoning, logic, and STEM skills.

The Competition

We are raising $10,000 to fund a competition that will bring innovators from across the country together to help us develop the best game-based learning activities that can be made for free or very low cost.


About This Challenge

The amazing, untapped power of games on the developing brain

There are millions of underprivileged young students who do not have access to the best learning environments or tools in their schools today. Because of this gap, these children are at a significant disadvantage: their reasoning and logic skills start to fall behind, they test lower on IQ and standardized tests, and they don’t master STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) basics–all of which are key to future job success in today’s world. But, there’s good news.

These gaps can actually be closed by playing simple and engaging games (yes, games). Several years ago we incorporated ThinkFun games into our reasoning training program. Our small but influential study showed that playing fun, off-the-shelf reasoning and logic games in a social group for just 2-3 hours a week was able to boost these critical skills by over 30% and even boosted IQ scores by 10 or more points.


The affordability problem

Unfortunately, to actually duplicate the kind of after-school game program we tested above would cost a school significant money ($200 to $300 for just a couple of sets of these games). We believe that every child in the world should have the opportunity to exercise their minds with engaging, stimulating games. We want to bring the power of brain-boosting games to children all around the world. We will do this by using our competition to create a library of innovative, easy-to-learn, engaging-to-play games that can be replicated at any school, organization, or household for minimal to no cost.

Why use a competition to solve this?

We have seen that some of the most innovative and creative new game ideas often come from people who are not involved in the current “Toy and Game” communities. That’s one of the powers of the competitive model. By raising this prize we will be able to cast a much wider net in terms of finding designers, engineers, developers, teachers, and more that have the capability to create something amazing but haven’t had the chance or opportunity before. We actually can’t tell you what these final games or activities will look like yet because they haven’t been developed (which is why we are tapping into the broader society to drive that innovation, under our guidance). But we do know that new gaming experiences like this can absolutely be developed and they can be incredibly engaging and impactful. We just can’t wait to see innovative new game experiences that have that special spark of engagement that makes young children yearn to play (and learn) again and again.

How will you get the winning games out to the world?

Once the competition is complete and the winning games are selected, we will put the winners (and the strongest contenders) online for free download so that anyone in the world that wants to get access to them can do so, free of charge. We will also get the instructions and templates for the most popular games localized for international audiences. Imagine next year if any school in the world could simply print out a set of instructions from the web, gather students together in a collaborative preparation session, and for little to no cost could add a proven, game-based learning program to their curriculum that literally increases the reasoning capabilities and IQ of their students. That would be a huge win.

And we’d like to stress, these games won’t necessarily be the traditional ‘board’ games that you think of. We are going to cast a much wider net in terms of the types of game programs that could vie for the top prizes, includes games based on pure outdoor play and interaction, games based on interactive problem solving, and more. We are actively working with various children’s learning organizations around the world that specialize in these areas to step forward to help distribute the games once the competition is complete. Please see the Competition Details section for more information.

The science behind this Challenge

We started this Challenge because our understanding of the brain, how children learn, and the impact of logic and reasoning games on actual brain development has taken quantum steps forward over the last several years. Please check out these two links below and read much more about it in the Related Articles section of this Challenge.

Details for Challengers

  • $10K in prizes. $5K for first, $2K for second, $1K for runner-up (3 given), additional raffle prizes
  • Judging via panel of experts and real-world student voting
  • Distribution of winning games via educational and gaming partners

Complete Competition Details
Apply to Compete

This Challenge Started By

Silvia Bunge

Dr. Silvia Bunge is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Bunge directs the Building Blocks of Cognition Laboratory, which draws from the fields of cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and education research. Researchers in the laboratory examine developmental changes and neural plasticity in cognitive control and reasoning skills in healthy and neurologically impaired children and adults.

Bill Ritchie

Bill is the co-founder and CEO of ThinkFun games, the world’s leading maker of ‘addictively fun games’ that build reasoning and creative thinking skills through play. As a TEDx speaker and former TED book store curator, Bill is a thought leader in puzzles and education. Bill is a respected member of the international puzzle community; in 2000, he received the "Sam Loyd Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mechanical Puzzles" from the Association of Game and Puzzle Collectors.

Funding and Perk Details:

$5.00 minimum pledge. This project will only be funded if the full $10,000 is funded by October 20, 2013 at 11:59PM EST. Perks are distributed only if the full $10,000 is funded.

Special Perks

for your contribution, from our friends at:​

thinkfun berkeley



A free ThinkFun Game

Get a free copy of Swish, the fast-paced flip, rotate, and stack game that builds spaital intelligence.

  • Unlimited available
  • Etimated delivery: November 2013
  • Shipping costs extra.


An even cooler ThinkFun Game

Five-star rated. In Laser Maze you use lasers (yes, real lasers) to navigate through increasingly harder logic mazes. 60 challenging levels to solve.

  • Unlimited available
  • Etimated delivery: November 2013
  • Shipping costs extra


A bag of ThinkFun Games

Pick three games from the amazing ThinkFun portfolio. Choose from award-winning games like Rush-HourZingoMathDiceChocolate FixSolitaire Chess, and more (you’ll get to select them later).

  • Unlimited available
  • Etimated delivery: November 2013
  • Shipping costs extra


An avalanche of ThinkFun Games


Eight (count them, 8) ThinkFun games for you, your family, your friends, your school, and anyone else that loves to learn and have fun. Check-out to see all of the great games that ThinkFun offers (you’ll get to select them later).

  • Unlimited available
  • Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • Shipping costs extra


Top Contributor Perk - A 3-D brain scan and model of your actual brain

An experience you can’t buy. You will get a once-in-a-lifetime image scan of your actual brain at Berkeley which will then be turned into a physical 3-D model which you get to keep, hold, and display. The top contributor who gives $2000 or more will win this perk.

* You must pass an MRI safety screening in order to be scanned. If someone exceeds your donation you’ll be given an opportunity to up your donation.

  • Only 1 available – currently unclaimed
  • Contribution to beat: $2000

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