Map, by Jasper Johns

One of the biggest gripes about US students is that they have no sense of geography.

I have a six-year-old who knows every state by it’s shape, so I thought I’d tell you how he learned it: From video games.

First, he was in the car one day searching for a new app on my iPhone. He went to top ten downloads for kids, and found one about states. He didn’t really want to learn about states, but he was sick of playing Angry Birds and Battle Bears and he couldn’t find anything else.

So he played Stack the States in the car for three days. I played with him, impressing him with my knowledge of state capitals. And he learned to pronounce tough words like Boise and Pierre because he had to read the question out loud to me to get help with the answer.

Then, he got a 3DS and it has this plaza where you can meet other kids, as avatars. Every morning the kids wake up and see which states the people in the plaza are from. This morning, only one state was colored in, and my son said, “Look! Someone visited from Tennessee!” That’s when I realized that during our experiment with unlimited video games we have been accidentally studying geography intensively.