Friday, July 12, 2013

Mayan Mysteries from Dig-It Games {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

We've always liked to use hands-on activities to help us in learning, and games have often been a popular choice. We'll be studying the history, cultures, and geography of the Americas in the upcoming school year, so an opportunity to learn about the ancient Mayan culture while reviewing a internet-based game seemed like perfect timing. Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we've been able to work on solving Mayan Mysteries from Dig-It Games.
Dig-it Games On-line App photo dig-itgames-mayanmysteries_zps7a4409ab.jpeg
Dig-It Games was started in 2005 by Suzi Wilczynski, a professional archaeologist and former middle-school teacher. With help from Robert J. Sharer, an archaeologist and professor of anthropology, the company seeks to develop educational games that promote creative thinking, independent learning, and cultural understanding. Kids are encouraged to explore the world through historically accurate content that blends entertainment and learning. Roman Town is the award-winning first game from Dig-It, and teaches about archaeology and Roman history. Mayan Mysteries was released in 2012, and allows gamers to explore excavation sites, decode glyphs, learn about the Mayan calendar, and discover information about how the Mayans lived and what they believed.

How did we use it? Kennady was my gamer. At first she expected Mayan Mysteries to be an action game with educational elements, so she was a bit disappointed with her initial experience. We had a little talk and I reoriented her to the idea that this is more like an educational website with games and puzzles to make it fun. All of a sudden, it WAS a lot of fun! She just needed to adjust expectation a little bit. I pretty much allowed her to play for short periods of time here and there, whenever the computer was available and she was interested.

The game is actually a mystery puzzle to be solved. Team Q (Professor Quinn and his niece and nephew) have to find out who is looting the Maya sites. The suspect is Ladrone, a thief with a history of stealing artifacts. When playing the game, you are helping Team Q by collecting clues about the thief as well as learning all about the ancient Maya culture. The Team Q story is told in graphic novel style, and the only thing I thought odd about it was that it did read as if the niece and nephew are really making contact with a Mayan spirit guide.

Once started on the puzzle, we had to get familiar with a map of central America, showing where the centers of the Maya civilization were located. We learned a little about archaeology - what happens at a dig, what kinds of tools are used, and what kinds of artifacts might be found. Of course that leads to learning about the information that can be gleaned from artifacts - what we know about the daily lives, religious practices, warfare, and other aspects of the Mayan civilization. We have also learned about reading Mayan glyphs, done calculations using Mayan math, and started figuring out the Mayan calendar system. It's complicated. At each stage of the game there was information to read, as if it was told by the people living in ancient times. Then there was a quiz to check how much she understood of what she'd just read. Getting correct answers moved the Team Q vehicle up the road towards the goal line, and a wrong answer moved the looter's vehicle up in pursuit.Of course you want to help Team Q beat the looters! There were a variety of interactive activities at each level. Kennady liked uncovering the artifacts at the dig site, and decoding the Maya glyphs best. Some of the math activity was hard - not because the operations were difficult, but because she had to think in different "denominations" than we are used to! It took us awhile to catch on to what she was supposed to do with the calendar as well, but we did get it!
can you solve the mysteries of the Mayan calendar?
The player clicks on the exclamation points to have the character explain an aspect of Mayan culture or archaeology.
Kennady especially liked these activities
What we liked best:

  • variety of activities and types of puzzles. Kennady liked the activities much more than the quizzes.
  • success was mostly dependent on understanding the material, not on quick typing or hand-eye coordination
  • great graphics and presentation - it looks fantastic!

What I need to mention:

  • there is LOTS of reading. This didn't cause Kennady a problem, except that at first she wanted to skip it. Once she accepted that it was essential to succeeding, it was fine. But there IS a speaker, we just never used it.
  • there was that whole spirit guide thing. Some people might be freaked out by that. I didn't care for it, but since it was just part of the story, Kennady read it and moved on. She was laughing at some of the ridiculous aspects of a myth about the Mayan gods later in the game.
  • only one player for a single user license. But that player can start over at any time, or another player in the same household can play if they start over.
  • Spoiler Alert: apparently we will need to wait for Maya Mysteries 2 to completely solve the puzzle!

Our bottom line: We really enjoyed this game and Kennady hasn't tired of playing it yet. I'm glad because I hope that she will keep playing over again, or maybe let her older brother play some so that they will have plenty of knowledge about the Mayans when we get started on our official school year. I think this is a great learning tool especially during the summer break. In my opinion the price is very reasonable for the hours of enjoyment and education we've received.
Dig-it Games Logo photo dig-it-games-logo_zps61887cb9.png
Would you like to dig into history with these games? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website at:
You can play the free demo of Mayan Mysteries.

Pricing: A single user license for one year is $21.99.  The game can be played by both PC and MAC users. A version of Mayan Mysteries for play on iPad is available. A classroom edition is also available for up to 30 students, at a cost of $299. See the Store page for all the details.

Recommended Ages: Mayan Mysteries is recommended for age 11 and up, or roughly 5th through 9th grades. Younger children may struggle with some of the puzzles, and the topics of warfare and sacrifice may not be suitable for younger children. (However, there are no violent or graphic images in the game.)

You can read the Dig-It Games blog, follow on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other Crew member reviews. Crew members also reviewed the Mayan Mysteries iPad app, so be sure to check out their thoughts on that resource as well!

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Kaye Swain said...

Thanks for the info. I'd love to get it on the iPhone for my grandkids. I could put it on my senior mom's iPad but they rarely use that. However, I am now following them on Twitter and will hope for an iPhone version. I appreciate the heads up tho and will be sharing this article on Twitter and Pinterest for others who DO have iPads. Always love good educational apps and this one will go well with so many homeschool programs, including Classical Conversations. Thanks again! :)

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