Either in the higher elementary school grades and/or middle/junior high school, your children will come home with that dreaded homework sheet saying, “Learn the location of the states and their capitals.” I say dreaded, because most of the children do not want to learn them, and you will have to drill them for days to remember all the names and locations. If you already have gone through this routine, you most likely agree with me.

This is why many teachers, who are on the more creative end, will try to come up with a special song or game or, most traditionally, flashcards, to help the students memorize all this information. Geography is not typically a highly enjoyed subject at this younger, anyway, so kids need something to give them some motivation—even if’s a Jeopardy-like game or contest.

The Topo USA app provides students with some of this entertainment and motivation. It’s the same information to memorize, but perhaps a little easier to take the medicine in an app game form. The app tests location of states, state capitals and large cities. A plane flies over the U.S. at varying speeds set by the player and is directed by the player’s finger location on the screen. Flying speed is important: Flying too slowly makes it difficult to complete the task before the time is up, and flying too quickly makes it more difficult to maneuver the plane from one location to the next. Since the plane flies at an aerial level, the player is only seeing part of the U.S. at a time, which also adds to the difficulty. Hints are given, but that also slows the players down.
I was never good at geography or direction. My family knows if I tell them to turn right, they turn should turn left. Perhaps this would have helped me—probably not! In fact, I am embarrassed to say that I did not do well with this game, either. Some of the state and city locations I remembered very quickly. Others I didn’t remember as a kid and I still don’t remember.

This game will help your children learn the location of the states, but not the spelling. Since the names are on the screen, spelling becomes a moot point. For that, you and your child will have to go back to the traditional method of recitation: “What is the capital of Kansas?” “The capital of Kansas is Topeka—T O P E KA—Topeka.” There are some things that are just going to be boring and dreaded in education, and this is one of them. It’s possible to imagine the young boy or girl in the New England one-room schoolhouse spelling each of the names of the 13 colonies. It was surely much easier learning the states then, but not any more intriguing.

Posted in: By Age Range, By App Feature, Geography, Middle School, Parents and Kids, Primary School, Reviews

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