I can understand why this is an award-winning product. Kids can play Dr Hal’s Chemistry Trumps without any significant knowledge of chemistry when they start, but certainly will have learnt something by the time they finish.
I suppose this is what Prof Hal calls “camouflage learning”. Be it a particularly dangerous chemical, such as plutonium, the only one with a danger factor 10; or the fact that carbon has been known to Man since 1,000,000 BC, enthusiastic players can get their share of information about some chemical elements from this game.
The card game was originally designed by Professor Hal Sosabowski, currently Professor of Public Understanding of Science at the University of Brighton and science consultant for TV and radio shows, including ITV’s Ministry of Mayhem and BBC’s Bright Sparks, among many others. All the facts included in the cards were checked by Prof Hal and his team of researchers and downloadable teacher’s notes can be found online.
The game is based on the popular Top Trumps Game, which is ideal as most children are already familiar with the rules, thus avoiding lengthy explanations in the classroom. The deck contains 32 cards, each representing a chemical element and an additional card explaining the game rules. Trump factors include atomic mass, danger factor (based on potential hazards caused by the element), usefulness factor (based on its economic and industrial uses), melting point (in degree Celsius) and year of discovery. With the help of a parent or teacher, I can see how these subjective classifications may start interesting discussions. In addition, each element also contains interesting “Elementary facts”, a brief description of some important properties or uses, increasing the chances of fun learning about the particular element.
Each playing card has a picture of a chemical element in its natural form or in an application. Personally, I prefer the applications as I find it easier to relate to how each element can be used, but unfortunately not all elements lend themselves to do this.
Part of the same range, Prof Hal has also developed Biology, Physics and Recycling Trumps, looking at various aspects, from different animals to common waste products. Currently, the games are only available online at www.drhal.co.uk.
Playing the game
Playing the game is simple and straight-forward and draws on rules most likely familiar to any 11-year old. There’s no limit on how many participants can play the game, but I think about 5 would give the best results, which may need some careful consideration to set up in a classroom. On the plus side, as the rules are simple to understand, the game has the potential to attract both younger and older players, with varying levels of understanding.
Priced at £4.99, using Dr Hal’s Chemistry Trumps in the classroom or at home is an easy way to get children to learn a subject sometimes perceived as complicated and boring. If you’re a teacher or a student, a parent or simply a chemistry enthusiast, this is a fun way to learn and teach about the periodic table.