A Smart Place to Play

Published November 1, 1999

Learning is a lot more fun when a funky cartoon gorilla coaches you in grammar, or when you can score home runs for correctly solving a math problem. That’s the premise behind, an educational Web site that links children, parents, and teachers.

“Our goal is to have kids learning their multiplication tables while holding their sides laughing,” said Mike Cirks, the site’s technical director and co-founder. is an award-winning free edu-tainment site that uses interactive games to tutor elementary school children. More than 40 games, each customizable for varying levels of ability and tied to national curriculum standards, are offered in math, science, grammar, geography, music, and foreign language. They include Math Baseball, Grammar Gorillas, and Stay Afloat–a game similar to “Hangman,” in which children must identify a word before sinking a boat. Illustrating the games are colorful graphics, silly jokes, and cartoon characters who offer words of encouragement. The games are fast-loading and require no plug-ins, extra equipment, or software.

“FunBrain helps kids acquire or improve classroom skills and gain confidence in their abilities,” said marketing and media Vice President Trent Richards. “They also get immediate feedback, which keeps them interested in coming back again and again.”

“It requires brain power to answer the questions, but it doesn’t take brain power to figure out how to play the games,” said Cirks.

The QuizLab™ area of the site offers registered teachers and parents an array of professional teaching tools designed to save time and augment lesson material. These include a database of 10,000 quizzes, which are searchable by grade level and subject and which have been compiled by experienced teachers across the country. Quizzes are graded and the results e-mailed to the teacher. An online gradebook tracks the scores. In addition, an authoring tool enables users to write their own quizzes. is used effectively by both teachers and parents, said Cirks. “Teachers can give everyone in the class the same test at the same time and have them instantly graded, so they can go on to other things. Or if one kid has a problem with a particular skill, a teacher or parent can have the kid play a game that focuses on that skill.”

“Taking quizzes and playing educational games on a Web site are much more engaging than workbook exercises and classroom drills,” added Richards. was conceived in 1996 when its parent company, the software publisher PMpublishing, created Math Baseball as a community service project for a magnet school. The game won awards and attention, prompting the partners to launch the comprehensive educational Web site. The site is advertising-supported to the extent that the ads are appropriate for young children.

The site receives about 30,000 visits and 300 e-mails a day, making it one of the top five kid’s sites in monthly impressions. It has won more than 50 awards, including the Digital Dozen from the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education.

:Education is very important to families today,” said Richards. “Parents want to offer their children opportunities, and education is the bridge to opportunity. What we’ve done is use the computer as an educational tool and develop a concept in which children play and learn at the same time.”

For more information, contact Trent Richards at [email protected], or visit the Web site at