13 Insanely Engaging Games for the Classroom

November 29, 2013
Ellen Holderman
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Parents and Families, Technology Integration, Tools

It's Top-Pick List Friday! This week, we are featuring engaging games for the classroom. Students will lose themselves in thought-provoking gameplay with these apps, games, and websites .

To see the rating of each, visit the Top-Picks List, Insanely Engaging Games for the Classroom

Photo by Paul Mayne.


In Spore, players guide the "evolution" of a creature across five stages: cell, creature, tribal, city, and space. The best part of Spore is its creation mode. Players design all of the creatures, buildings, and vehicles they use in the game. Read full review.

Sound Shapes
Sound Shapes is a visually stunning platform puzzle game set to a rich musical soundscape that evolves as players interact with the environment. Players navigate a blob character through various obstacles and challenges, completing "albums" of levels that unlock new sounds and shapes that can be used to create their own levels. Read full review.

Numbers League
Numbers League is a math practice app that revolves around an exciting superhero mission. Playing the game, younger kids practice basic arithmetic and mental math. Older kids can play a more challenging game including negative numbers and multiplication, depending on which level is chosen (1-5). Read full review.

Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a mobile version of the classic historical simulation game originally designed for PC. Kids lead their family westward across the American frontier by tapping the screen to make choices about the journey. Read full review.

Trainyard is a train routing puzzle game that's easy to learn but hard to master. The goal: Get the color-coded trains from their outlets to their correct stations. Kids create and test track configurations on a grid background until they find one that works. Read full review.

SimCity is an always-online, fast-paced, intuitive, and forgiving city simulator that lets kids build (and destroy) single-player cities in multiplayer regions. Kids playing together in the same region can develop their cities into specialized economic powerhouses that cooperate on great works to benefit the whole region. Read full review.

Elmo Loves 123s for iPad
Sesame Street knows how to get preschool learning right. Elmo and Abby share their love of numbers, offering kids praise and encouragement as they figure out games. Elmo has them choose a number from 1 to 20 on a colorful screen. Kids then trace the chosen number before viewing a classic Sesame Street video clip incorporating the number. Read full review.

Toontastic is a digital storytelling tool that teaches kids how to organize and present story ideas through cartoons. It employs a "Story Arc" that contains five sequential scenes to guide story structure (Setup, Conflict, Challenge, Climax, and Resolution). Read full review.

Sid Meier's Civilization V
Civilization V is the latest entry in the historic Civilization franchise, the premier turn-based strategy series. Players expand and grow civilizations through time, pursuing historically based -- but ultimately fictionalized -- scientific, political, and societal advances as they explore the world, stake their claims, and grow their cultures and cities. Read full review.

Slice It
Slice It! delivers 200 brain-teasing puzzles that challenge kids' understanding of core geometry concepts including shapes, symmetry, area, and measurement. Each puzzle presents a different shape, which kids must "slice" into a set number of equal parts by using a finger to make a specific number of cuts. Read full review.

Dragon Box+ Algebra
DragonBox+ teaches kids algebra in a refreshing and unique way. Ten chapters get increasingly complex, and drag-and-drop simplicity teaches kids to solve, balance, and reduce multi-variable equations and overcome fears about learning math. Read full review.

Lifeboat to Mars
Lifeboat to Mars is an ecosystem simulator hosted by PBS Kids Go! and developed by Red Hill Studios with the support of the National Science Foundation. Kids are lifeboat trainees, and the Onboard Robot Trainee (ORT) teaches them to manage organisms. Read full review.

Gamestar Mechanic
Gamestar Mechanic is an online toolset, game, and community that teaches kids how to build games. A series of manga cut-scenes and "missions" ask kids to play, fix, and make different kinds of games built around specific mechanics, like collecting points or jumping. Read full review.


What websites or apps that you students cannot put down? Share them with us by signing in to comment below.