A Better Way of Learning about the U.S. States

Memorizing the state capitals is a right of passage for most middle schoolers. Often they use flashcards or some similar memorization technique to learn them.  But it’s a bit of a meaningless exercise, isn’t it? Kids are generally pretty good at memorizing simple facts when they put their minds to it, but those minds can be like sieves – the data goes out as easily as it goes in.

Part of the difficulty is that the names of the cities that are these state capitals carry little meaning.  Austin is the capital of Texas, but where and what is Texas? For kids raised in New York, that’s a real question. They know it’s a state, but they don’t know much else about it. And just knowing the name of the state capital isn’t very useful.

Another problem is that, while flashcards are great for committing facts to short-term memory, they don’t engage kids for long. Games provide a good alternative, but in most “educational” games, the learning comes slowly as players must wait their turn to get a question and rarely get the same question twice in the same game.

I’ve created a new game called State Master that makes learning about the states fun and easy. In playing the game, kids will learn six facts about each state and the state’s location on the map. Here’s a sample card:

TX Back

TX Back


TX Face

TX Face

In State Master, all players participate in every turn, so everyone is learning and testing their knowledge constantly. Player who get the wrong answer take a quick moment to study all six facts on the state card and then try to get the same card the next turn, immediately putting their new knowledge to use.

State Master is fun for all ages and its a game in which younger players can often beat older players as they tend to be better at retaining facts.

One other great thing about State Master is its portability.  The cards and dice used in the game come in a small box, which is easy to bring on the road.  My kids and I like to play at restaurants while we wait for our food to come.  We can generally finish a game in 10 minutes or so and if the game isn’t over when the food arrives, we just count up our cards and declare a winner.

The complete rules of State Master are shown here.

The game isn’t available yet, but I hope it will be soon.  I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon to get State Master funded.  Stay tuned.

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