Teach Through Games: Laser Maze

Teach Through Games: Laser Maze

Age level: Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School

Description: This unique science-based game requires students to direct a laser beam through a maze of obstacles to hit a specific target. The materials are highly motivating for students, and the game itself is quite challenging. Students have to think strategically to figure out where to place beam-splitters, cell blockers, mirrors, and targets to achieve the goal on the game-card they have chosen. There are multiple levels of play, from beginner to expert.

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Skills & Modifications: The first thing I absolutely loved about this game is that the instructions suggested having the student explore the materials on their own before engaging in gameplay. I did this with each student, and it helped build an understanding of the pieces in a more naturalistic and engaging way than just having me label and define each piece. It also built motivation to accept the challenges presented on the game cards.

  • Scanning: This game requires strong scanning skills. While the picture of the game on the box emphasizes the laser as a straight line of light that you can follow, in reality you have to find where point of light is hitting a surface. That point lasermazeof light may be on a surface within the game, on a wall across the room, on a player’s shirt, anywhere! For one student who struggled with finding the point of light, I modified the game by using Diffusion in a Can, which sprays a fog over the game board. While this modification is expensive (I paid $20 on amazon for one can), it lasts for a long time. It allowed for my student to see the entire laser beam and be more successful with the game. I tried to quickly fade the use of the spray by giving her time to find the point of light on her own. 
  • Critical Thinking – At its root, this is a logical thinking puzzle game. The game requires thoughtfulness as the student makes different attempts to hit the target with the laser. Because there are multiple pieces involved, for some students, I modified the game by narrowing down the selection of choices for completion in a task. For other students who were struggling with the beginner cards I actually gave them the appropriate piece and allowed them to use trial and error to figure out the appropriate placement for that piece in order to hit the target.
  • Cause & Effect – The student places game tokens on the board, turns on the laser, and sees if it’s hitting the target. If not, they readjust. There is a clear cause and effect relationship between each adjustment the student makes. As with critical thinking skills, when necessary I modified the game by reducing the number of game tokens for the student to choose from.
  • Accepting Mistakes/Errors – One of my favorite aspects of this game is the built in trial and error. It’s hard to find games that encourage learning from errors in this way. This is a great game to work on accepting mistakes because the materials are highly motivating, and there is a faster “pay-off” to moving on from your mistake and trying again.
  • Independent Play – The game is designed so one person can play it. If you are working with students with autism on improving their independent play skills, this may be a good choice. If your student cannot interact with the game independently at this point, you can promote independence by including it in your choices for Activity Schedules. This way the student can independently choose the game, take out all materials, and include it in a range of appropriate activities he/she is guiding him/herself through. It also allows for the opportunity for the student to independently invite someone else to play the game.

Pros: The main attraction to this game is that it involves lasers, which each student I’ve used it with has found highly motivating. Even when the child struggled with how challenging the game was, they continued to try to figure it out because their motivation was so high. Another pro is that there are multiple levels of play. None of my students went beyond beginner, but this is fantastic if you are working with involving siblings, peer play, or when you’re ready to make it more challenging for your own student. Finally, I cannot state enough how important it is to have a game that teaches it’s okay to make errors and allows for quick learning from any errors. Having those errors be part of the learning process is an essential aspect of this game, especially when most games children encountered are largely focused on winning or losing.

Cons: Though the game is suggested for students 8 and up, if you are buying it to help your student with appropriate independent play skills, this may not be the best option. The students I used it with needed assistance with the beginning level. The second con is that the box is designed so that there is a specific spot for the laser. There are multiple compartments for the game pieces, and the one for the laser is much deeper than the ones for the other pieces. When packing it back into the box, if you place it in one of the other compartments (as I did) then the button for the laser will be compressed by the lid of the box and drain the battery quickly. I now have a little sticker placed in the deepest compartment to prompt students to place the laser in the correct compartment, which means battery life will not be an issue in the future.

Cost: $29.99 Should I buy this? The price is a bit steep, but this is a unique game. You’ll have to think about your particular child or students and determine if it’s worth the cost to have access to a different way of teaching the skills listed above.

ABLLS: coming soon

VB-MAPP: coming soon

**Laser Maze was provided to me for free by the company ThinkFun to write about here at Teach Through. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.

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