Sunday, August 12, 2018

Just who the fuck do I think I am ?

I may as well start with the swearing in the title because there is going to be  a lot of it in this post.

Recently, a friend of mine overheard a few people talking about my attitude. What terrible thing did I do? I said that I wasn't going to participate in  a bunch of pitch competitions and hackathons coming up because I could make more money doing work on the contracts I already have, so it wasn't worth my time.

One of the haters fumed,

"Just who the fuck does AnnMaria think she is?"

Another awful thing I had done, according to them,  was turn down three opportunities to speak at events. The fact is, I'm running a company, hiring people, meeting with customers, reviewing contracts, and yes, speaking at a lot of events. Hater number 2, chimed in with,

"Can you believe it? She said she gets asked to speak at 2 or 3 events a week? If people are still asking her to talk at her age, she should be grateful! Seriously, who does she think she is?"

My friend was appalled, but when I heard about this, and more, I found it highly amusing. First of all, I haven't met any of these people more than a couple of times and hadn't thought about them for a combined total of 30 minutes in my life. Second, everything they were complaining that I had said was true and in response to questions I had been asked. If you don't want me to give you a true answer, don't ask me. It's not like I'm on Reddit or on a street corner with a sign that says "Ask me anything."

The thing that makes it worth discussing, to me, is the apparent confusion between entitlement, gratitude and appreciation.

For example, if you are putting on a hackathon or a conference, if you run a start-up accelerator or anything else that is very hard work, I can appreciate that, defined by Webster as "to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of".  Good for you, not spending all your money on cheap hookers and expensive whiskey. 

If someone is GRATEFUL on the other hand, they are "appreciative of benefits received".  Let me be clear, if I see your conference/ hackathon / accelerator / coffee-hair salon- ad agency or whatever it is as having exactly jackshit in terms of benefits to me, then, again, according to Webster,  I don't need to be grateful for it.

Yes, it's good you're not wasting your life, but if you want gratitude, to quote a friend of mine,

 "Call your mama, she probably still loves you."

I get offers all of the time from people who want me to fly to East Nowhere and think I should be grateful they are offering to let me attend the Lemon Festival for free, "and we can't afford to pay your plane fare but we'll put you up in a Motel 6".

You're not entitled to other people's time

 Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges 
  
Yes, I do get invited to speak at a lot of events. Sometimes, I'm grateful, because I know I will learn a lot, or it's in a lovely place I want to go or I expect to spend time with fascinating people, or all of the above. 

However, every two weeks, I need to make a payroll so that our artists, developers and administrators at 7 Generation Games keep coming to work. That means that I need to consider the schools and customers who are giving us money first, reaching them and providing services to them.

That's not the point, though. Even if I am not doing anything productive, if I'm just laying in bed drinking coffee and reading a book, that's perfectly fine.  You're not entitled to other people's time. 

I am, however, entitled to my own opinion and preferences. I'll be sixty next week. I've worked full-time for 45 years and taught judo as a volunteer for 47 years. I think I've done my fair share of contributing to society.  If you don't agree, oh well. If you get angry because you think I'm not appreciative enough of your event / program/ whatever to participate, oh well.

One thing I have learned for damn sure after all of these years is that time is not infinite. I have to make decisions and set priorities, and they will be my priorities, not yours, because I'll have to live with the consequences.


Here's why I think I really piss some people off

I have a sense of my own value and what I have earned,  defined as "to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered".  So, if you want me to come to your event, I'm not staying in a motel without heat and having ramen for breakfast because I don't want to do that any more and I have options to work with other people who don't expect me to do that.

I know that I am very good at a lot of things - software design, statistics, programming - and people will pay me well to do those things because there is a value to them, so I don't feel bad at all about refusing to do things that pay less. 

This, however, is the one thing that I think really, really makes people angry, and I find that very funny because I think it is one of the major keys to a happier life:

I refuse to be defined by other people's expectations.

 

Maybe you think I should not be doing another start-up in a new country at sixty years old. Maybe you think I should stay home and learn to knit. Maybe you think I should be grateful for the opportunity to spend 60 hours completing an application for $4,000 in funding that I may or may not get depending on some unpublished criteria. Maybe you think I should be more modest, quieter, less loud and proud about any accomplishments. You're entitled to your opinion. Just don't be surprised when I completely ignore it, because I've got shit to do.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

The thing about moving is you bring yourself with you

Therapists have a name for it, "Going geographic".

That is, the tendency of some people to change locations to solve their problems.

The problem is, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

and, as my friend Steve Scott, adds,

Sometimes that's the worst guy to bring.

I'll be honest. I moved half-way around the world, learned a new language and I'm still doing pretty much the same thing. Or, as I can hear my other friend (yes, I have more than one), Dr. Jake Flores saying,

"What? You mean you didn't turn into an entirely different person?"

Way too much of my day still involves answering email and, despite that, I still have thousands of unread emails, and that's not spam but people that I think I should get back to.

I still spend way more time than I would like in meetings and much less time than I'd like on coding and data analysis.


My best times are hiking in the woods and hanging out with my family, and I spend far less time doing either than I would like. A wise psychologist once told me,

The only time changing places solves your problems is when your problems are because of that place

So, if you are unemployed because you live in a town of 120 people with no jobs, then moving might solve your problem. If you are unemployed because you drink too much, miss work, have a fourth-grade reading level, can't get up early enough to get to work on time and fight with your coworkers, no matter where you go, you'll probably end up unemployed.

People don't change all at once, but "going geographic" has caused a change in trajectory for me 

 Looking back, I can see that I've changed in 4 ways as a result of living in Chile.

1. I take Saturdays off - I realize most people take Saturday AND Sunday off, but I never have. I'm often asked how I get so much done and one answer is I work 7 days a week, 9 or 10 hours a day.  When Ronda was visiting she asked me what I'd do if I retired. I told her that I had no idea because all I do is work. So, I've started taking a day off once a week. What do I do? Usually, I go hiking for an hour or two. When my children and grandchildren were here, I hung out with them and did stuff like go to the playground.
In the Santiago metro station
It's still weird to me to wake up and have nothing scheduled for that day, other than, say, meeting a friend for coffee. I've actually kept to my Saturday off schedule for over a month. When Dennis comes to visit, I'm planning on taking a couple of extra days off one week.  This is a big change for me.

2. I'm 5% less likely to tell people to fuck off, an impact of Chilean culture. People here don't get upset if there is no non-fat soy milk for their latte or if someone cuts them off in traffic or they have to wait an hour for an answer until someone gets back from lunch. In the U.S., it's common to hear people say,

"But I have a RIGHT to be upset if I come in three days in a row and they don't have the product advertised on the sign."

You may have the right but you also have the choice. Chileans choose not to be easily bothered. Maybe Bob is a terrible manager, but if you don't work with Bob, you don't really have to tell him that. Being more willing to let things ride can be a good thing, until it isn't. As I said, I'm only 5% more likely to let things go. If you are interested in the opinions Maria and I have on our travels and life in the window seat, you can read our Startup Diaries blog.

3. I appreciate every day things more now. I like good coffee and central heating, both of which are hard to find in Chile. I miss having my own office. I can read and write very well with relatively effort, in English. I never appreciated that before having to do business in Spanish. I miss libraries and bookstores that are full of books I can read easily. Oh my God, I miss living some place that doesn't have winter! Santiago isn't Sioux Falls or Fargo by any means but it has actual winter where it gets below 50 degrees for weeks on end. I hadn't lived somewhere with winter for 21 years and I don't intend to do it again after this. I didn't realize how much of a drag it was on me until the last two days when it was finally in the 70s. Ronda has been talking to me about building a tiny house for retirement. I was intrigued by the idea but now I know for sure that if it's anywhere that has winter, I'm out. Maybe a tiny summer house.

4. Really starting to re-evaluate the time I spend on things I don't want to do. I've been saying for 30 years I want to do more research. Yet, no matter whether I'm in Santa Monica or Santiago, my time gets eaten up by answering a thousand emails a week, meetings, presentations. Yes, I know that our games are helping students learn. I know that our teacher resources are a godsend for many teachers. However, I've been working 45 years. I started working full-time when I was 15 and I'll be 60 next week. I've taught judo as a volunteer for almost as long. I've given so many guest lectures and conference presentations and seminars that I've totally lost track. So, I've decided that if I want to take an hour off and go walk in the park, that's fine. I'm starting to evaluate my success based on the number of times I say, "No" to opportunities that would take up my time.

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Don’t turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Albert Bandura. He is the most famous living psychologist and for good reason . If you’ve ever talked about a sports or entertainment figure being a bad role model, you’re referring to Bandura, whether you know it or not.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura

He said that the happiest people have “an absence of self-ruminative thoughts”. Unhappy people, on the other hand, are constantly thinking over and over of how they look, that the guy at the coffee shop called the person in front of them ‘sir’ but just said to them,’here you go, guys’.

If you’re more the podcast type, you can hear Eva and I discuss mango popsicles and the secrets to happiness on the More Than Ordinary podcast. We’re back with a new co-host.
http://www.7generationgames.com/podcast/secrets-to-happiness-maybe-its-mango-popsicles/

Somehow, I gradually slipped into the habit of being really bad about this. I would have a meeting where I completely disagreed with some policy and be mad all day about it. I’d be walking through the park and instead of noticing all of the really beautiful and interesting sights, I'd be ruminating about how unfair it was that my travel expenses did not get approved because I did not keep my boarding pass to show I actually went (really, dude?).

Solve two problems at once. Quit thinking and do something

I read something on instagram (yes, really) that snapped me out of it. I can't remember if it was Louis Velasquez or Alejandro Peraza, they both post a lot of interesting stuff, anyway, (whichever) he said,

Don't turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

I realized that's what I was doing. I would get notified we received a grant, we'd have a new game published in the app store and Google Play, we'd have another school district adopt our games and I'd be thinking all day about that expense reimbursement that got declined instead of doing the happy dance because business was going so great.

Here's what else I realized, I was ruminating about those things that made me unhappy instead of doing something about them.

Do you feel as if someone is continually dismissing your ideas and treating you as if you are a moron because you are a woman/ young/ black/ Hispanic / whatever ? Don't work with that person any more. Seriously. There are billions of people on this planet. Don't work with people who ruin your day every day. That's just silly. Find a new lawyer/ accountant/ agent. (Note to gossip-mongers: This is just an example. I like my lawyer and accountant fine and I don't have an agent.)

Decide and move on

There are two decisions you can make. One is that this behavior is unacceptable and you need to take action to stop it. Then, you do. Many times, I've found the paperwork  required to get funds for a grant or contract, whether for judo or my business, takes so much time that if I just did consulting work and billed for those hours, I'd come out ahead financially and could spend the money however I wanted. If you are continually mad about how your time is being wasted, stop and think about it in terms of how you could address that.

The second decision you can make is that it is not worth getting too upset about. Some family member I was talking to on the phone cut me off and said, "I have to go", like they had more important things to do than talk to me. Maybe they did. Honestly, I just called to check in to let them know I was thinking about them and, mission accomplished, so on with my day.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Yes, You DO Have Time for It

There are several things in my life I don’t feel as if I have enough time to do:
  • Learning more about programming
  • Improving my Spanish
  • Hiking
  • Strategic planning for our company rather than putting out the latest fire
  • Teaching judo
  • Keeping up with people - answering email, returning phone calls, just checking in
  • Data analysis and research

I’ll bet you have your own list. There might be some times, temporarily, when you have to put everything else on hold, but be careful of letting it become your lifestyle.

My guess is, if you are reading this blog, you and I may have a little bit in common. Speaking for myself, one of the tendencies I have is to go all in. That can be good. It led to a world championships, a Ph.D., a published book, a few companies founded. That can also be a bad thing.

I’m not one of those people who hate on Facebook. In fact, my friends’ list is regularly curated so I only see what I want, which is how my friends and family are doing and people who post interesting (to me) stuff. I admire those people who manage to always have time for their family and hobbies while simultaneously holding down a job that supports said families and hobbies .

However, I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about me and the last few months have been simultaneously a disaster and an amazing success. The success part is that we hit a lot of deadlines with very good results for our company. I pitched at 3 Ed Tech events, including 2 in Spanish, which takes me seven times as long to write and practice because it’s my second language.

Me, at my day job

 I  did three presentations in Spanish, two live and one streamed to over 7,000 people. One of those live presentations was hosted by a ‘district’ seven hours south of Santiago, where I also visited two schools and discussed our latest games. I could go on, but you get the idea.

No greater success than seeing kids' interest in our games

Have you ever been like that? You have so much going on with your job or your sport that you exclude everything else?

Well, stop it. Like so many things else in life, my base in judo is helpful here. I won a whole bunch of gold medals while going to college, going to graduate school and working full time as an engineer. I also had a baby/ toddler the last two years. So, I know from personal experience you don’t have to spend 100% of your time on one goal to be a success. Maybe you do TEMPORARILY, like the two months leave I took from my job to compete and train in Europe and focus on my training in the US. However, if that two months turns into six,  you might want to start questioning how temporary this is.

So, what’s my answer? Well, you are reading it. Those deadlines I had to meet were really important but one thing I have finally managed to understand is that not everything is equally important. Event at U.S. Embassy with 20 very knowledgeable people on education in Chile - extremely important and can’t be put off.  Someone want to meet with me and talk about using our software in our schools on Monday - if they called me Friday afternoon, I DON’T have to spend all weekend preparing for it. In fact, if they are the kind of person who thinks I should jump at the opportunity to meet them at the last minute, maybe I don’t want to work with them.

(Proof I take my own advice, I'm back to doing the More Than Ordinary podcast with a new co-host)

Here’s a key point ... you’re making yourself crazy


Most likely, if I tell that Head of School, “Could we meet the next week instead? Here are three times that work for me, are you available any of those?”  They will be perfectly willing to meet with me later. They just threw out the first time that was available. (Go back and read my other post on not giving it more attention than it deserves.)

Now that I’ve gotten through the immutable deadlines, that’s what I’m doing. Because I’m me, it would be easy to get back into the same rat race of waking up, taking 10 minutes to shower, dress and dash out the door, a frantic day of meetings, then more work until I fall into bed, drink a glass of wine while reading my email and go to sleep exhausted.

What I have decided NOT to do is go back to this schedule by trying to do everything every day.

What I have been doing is started working on a couple of items on my list every day. In the morning, I just work on learning more Spanish or programming , sometimes both. That’s what I do the first hour that I’m up. More, if it’s a weekend . I started going to bed earlier,getting up an hour earlier and doing what I most wanted to catch up on first.

I turned the international plan back on for my phone and I’ve started calling a couple off people a day just to catch up.

One of those calls was to James Wall who mentioned the JudoCon in Kansas City, November 2nd and 3rd. I had thought of presenting at that and concluded I could not spend an extra week or so in the U.S. Again, it occurred to me, hey, if the people I am working with can’t accept that I’m going to be gone a few extra days, perhaps those aren’t the right people to be working with. I mean, it’s not as if I’m a slacker.

So, yeah, I’ll be in Kansas City in November, head home to southern Cal in time to vote and then, most likely, head back to Chile after doing my civic duty.

There’s your answer then - make the time. Start work an hour later. Take a vacation . The people around you most likely will be totally fine with that. If not, find new people .


AzTech: The Story Begins - Mr. Gonzalez history class loses an average of 2 students per year. What happens to them?  Find the answer while learning fractions, statistics and Latin American history .

If you play on an iPad, leave us a review on the app store. However you play, feel free to send me your comments/ suggestions at annmaria.demars at 7generationgames.com



Friday, July 13, 2018

I Need to Take My Own Advice, Or Stupid Things I Do and Maybe You Do, Too

Like Alice in Wonderland, I often give myself good advice but very seldom follow it. I've decided to get back to blogging and make this into a series: advice of my own I should take. Who says you can only make resolutions on New Year's? No one asked me about those rules.

I've decided to make July resolutions that will lead to me being happier, and you, too, if you follow along.

Don't give it more attention than it deserves.

I stole this line from Gary Butts and it's very good advice. Do you ever catch yourself worrying about something over and over? There was a misspelled word on my slide in that presentation. That person corrected me in a meeting and,  in fact, their correction was wrong, how disrespectful!

I left my keys in the office and had to go back for them. Is that an early sign of Alzheimer's?  I am getting old, after all.

The fact is that even things that seem SUPER-IMPORTANT at the time really aren't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. I like Facebook for seeing what kids I knew when they were in judo are doing now. That kid who was just devastated not to win the junior nationals at age11 and beat herself/ himself up about it is now a speech pathologist, married, with two kids and just bought a house. Really, was it that important that you got caught by a foot sweep?

I know I am a big hypocrite because I was always upset when I lost. Even today, if a sale to a school district doesn't go through or we don't get a grant funded or an investor decides to take a pass on us, I feel like a big failure. It's silly, I know, but I'm working on it.

At the end of the day - there's another day, because that's how time works.

There's a really big world out there
I've always been kind of like this my whole life, blowing things out of proportion. I think it comes from wanting to do everything perfectly, which sounds good on the surface but no one is perfect and trying to be is the key to always feeling like a failure.

When I look at people I know who are usually happy, they all have this in common
... they don't get upset by things that aren't all that important. For example, I went to pay the notary -everything in Chile requires a notary and you have to pay in cash ( - if you are interested in my life in Chile, check out the Start-up Diaries over on the 7 Generation Games site) and she said my 20,000 peso bill was fake. I tried to give her another and she said that was fake, too. If you don't have the Chilean peso exchange rate memorized it's about 20,000 pesos = $67.  I was pretty pissed off.  I had gotten that money from the ATM at the bank and you'd think that wouldn't give you fake money.

I thought of some of the happiest people I know, and channeled my inner Alice, asking:

"Is $68 really going to cause you to go bankrupt? Is it worth ruining your day over?"

The answer was,

"No."

I went to Santa Lucia Park, ate fresh strawberries I bought from a fruit stand on the street and wrote this blog sitting next to this giant piece of pre-Columbian art



Here are my next four or five posts in this series, coming up  (I say four  or five because I'll probably end up putting a couple together....
  1. Your success in life and value as a human being are not decided on just one day (no, not even if it's the world championships or Olympics - maybe especially not then, since you must have done a hell of a lot to get to that point. )
  2. Don't talk about other people. In fact, don't even think gossip about other people
  3. You decide how happy you are
  4. The secret to happiness: The absence of self-ruminative thoughts. 
  5. Yes, you do so have time for it (see, that's why I'm back to writing this blog).
  6. The other secret to  happiness: Focus on the good
  7. Yet another secret to happiness: You don't need to be perfect and you don't have to know everything (yes, really)
Like this blog? Help a sister out by playing AzTech: The Story Begins . It's free!
You can play it on your iPad or on the web on your computer.



Email annmaria.demars@7generationgames.com  and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Everybody should have a "What If" bag

This weekend, I was debating whether I should rent a car and head out to Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile. There were a lot of  "What If's" that ran through my mind.

  • What if I get in an accident? My car insurance doesn't apply in Chile.
  • What if I don't know where I'm going and get lost?
  • What if they don't understand me at the rental car office? My Spanish could be better.
  • What if I get tired and don't want to drive back?
  • What if I don't find anywhere to park the car near my apartment?
  • What if  don't have anyone wants to go with me?
  • What if I don't  drive as well? I haven't driven a car in 4 months.
  • What if I don't get enough work done and fall behind schedule? 

Since you are reading this, you may have guessed I did not die in a fiery crash. Also, I went to Valparaiso.  It looked like this:


I also went to Viña del Mar, which I liked better, it looked like this:

And I stopped to go for a hike twice on the way there, it looked like this:

And this:


Here is a secret to life that I am passing on to you- have a "what if" bag.  I was at the Arnold Classic in March when Ronda got inducted into the sports hall of fame and one of the many bits of swag they gave out was a string back pack.

When Ronda was here, she forgot many things (if you know her, this does not surprise you at at all), including a small bag for - I don't know, for small things.

My What If Bag


These two comprise my "What if" bag.  What if I DO go and what if I DO decide I want to stay in Viña del Mar over night?

Have a "What if I DO" bag. Throw in a toothbrush, a change of clothes and a phone charger. There's really not much you need.

When I checked into the hotel - which I had booked on my travelocity app when stopped at a light two blocks away  - the desk clerk asked,

"Is this really all you have for luggage?"

I told him,

"Yes. I wasn't sure if I was coming, but now here I am."

We both laughed and the bell hop insisted on carrying my "What If" bag to my room.

--------------

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Miracle Kim, Chile's Boxing Marvel: And you thought you were tough

Chilean Boxing’s Small Miracle

Next time you think you’re a bad ass, ask yourself if you’d compete in a gym that doesn’t have heat. It was 50 degrees outside but it was a damp night and felt a lot colder. I asked the photographer from the local TV station why they didn’t turn the heat on and she said,

“This is a poor area. The gym doesn’t have heat.”

Oh, by the way, there are 14 matches and the last one is Miracle Kim Sandoval, the one I came to see.

I was in Concepcion this month at a conference on women defying stereotypes. Since I’m president of a company that makes applications to teach math and English, I was mostly interested in the talks by women in technology, science and entrepreneurship. However, there was a 16-year-old speaker, Kim Sandoval, who is the women’s boxing champion of Chile and a silver medalist in the South American championships.

It turned out that Ronda was one of her role models in getting into combat sports, and Kim lives in Santiago, so of course we had to have lunch when Ronda was in town last week.

Kim La Pequena Maravilla Sandoval , or as Ronda nicknamed her “Miracle Kim” because she’s a small miracle is super popular in her community. How popular?

When she was the headliner at an event in a local gym that went past midnight in one of the worst urban neighborhoods in Chile  every single person stays, despite the lack of heat.



Kim’s mom, Jacquelyn, has organized this event. The family has very little money and from what I overheard, they get very little backing from the boxing federation. When I asked someone in the crowd why that was, he shrugged and said they don’t like her mother because she advocates for Kim, speaks out when she feels the athletes are not getting adequate support, and that old guys running the sport don’t like a woman that speaks up. Boy, did that sound familiar!

The event was a bit of a small miracle in itself. I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in Los Angeles and North Dakota. You know how it is, you go watch things your friends’ kids or in or that your friends are coaching. Payback for the many friends I have dragged to judo tournaments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d say the level of boxing overall was similar to what I’d seen in tournaments in the U.S. As with any event, some boxers were noticeably better than others. Nobody was seriously injured and a lot of young boxers got experience.  Except for the lack of heat and the lights going out at one point, and staying out until, I presume someone found a circuit breaker, it was a good event. Organized and well-run. It seemed to be put on by the people in the community with just about zero official support except for a couple of referees and a couple of police officers there for security .

I could totally relate to Kim’s mom’s realization that her daughter needed something, in this case more competition, and just creating it out of thin air.

Still, this kid is only 16 years old, her opponent is 28 and teaches boxing. 2 hours before her fight, in a freezing gym, Kim is hanging around the one, tiny  propane camp heater someone brought, and talking with her friends. She goes over to encourage a friend who lost his match.

At first, I’m not sure if she is not taking this fight seriously enough or if she is doing the exactly right thing. Like I always told Ronda, you see these people warming up all day at judo tournaments and their first fight isn’t for 6 hours. By the time it comes up, they are exhausted. The smart thing is to relax an start getting ready 30-45 minutes before you come up.

Sure enough, 45 minutes before her fight, Kim heads to the locker room. When she comes out, for her match, it is clear who the fan favorite is. I’ve never seen her box.

Well, I know very little about boxing but 3 rounds later, it’s clear who the winner is. After tearing into her opponent and winning a unanimous decision, Miracle Kim insists that Jacquelyn join her in the ring and the whole crowd joins her in singing her mom happy birthday.

Mark my word, watch this kid. She’s coming for you, training there in your fancy gym with that pansy ass shit like heat and lights that work.

If you'd like to see some video from her fight, scroll down

——-

When I’m not at boxing matches, I’m making games.

Check out Aztech: The Story Begins .


Random fact: We made this bilingual game to teach math in classrooms where kids might speak English or Spanish but about 10% of people say they play it to improve their Spanish. Play it on the web or download it for your iPad from the App Store.