Down Memory Lane: The "Little Professor"

Ah, Christmas holidays: that time of the year when we visit our friends and relatives, and reminisce all night about “when we were young”. This year turned out no different for me. While visiting my parents, I took a trip in between dinner courses to their attic to dig for childhood memories, and I found this little gem buried below layers of dust:

Throughout the seventies and eighties, long before we had iPads with widgets for interactive learning, Texas Instruments made a bunch of electronic educational toys, starting with this “Little Professor”. I don’t know if you ever saw one of these before (or even had the privilege of owning one), but for me, it doesn’t get more nostalgic than this: the memories of asking Santa for this toy, the anticipation, the extasy when finding it under the christmas tree, and the hours of fun playing (and learning!) with it.

If you have no clue what I’m rambling about, here’s what the “Little Professor” did: instead of solving arithmetic problems like a regular calculator, it presented you with arithmetic problems on the screen, and asked you to solve them. Get one right, and you get a star (and, in my version of the toy, a laughing professor). The goal is to get as many correct answers as possible. That’s it, sweet and simple, but so much fun to learn math!

As the first electronic educational toy, the “Little Professor” is sort of the great-great-great-grandparent of our Arithmetic Widget. With the Arithmetic Widget, you can easily create your own, advanced version of the “Little Professor”, but with slightly more types of math problems, and a difficulty level tailored to the age of your students. So, I decided to have some fun and use the Arithmetic Widget to create a homage to one of my all-time favorite toys:

What about you? Do you have great memories of educational toys from your childhood? Go ahead and see if you find a widget that can help you recreate that feeling and pass it on to your students. And if you can’t find the widget you’re looking for, be sure to drop us a line!

Finally, since we’re in the holiday spirit, I’ll leave you with a clip from the ultimate Christmas movie, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”, featuring the second educational toy from Texas Instruments, the wildly famous “Speak and Spell”:

Happy holidays, and have a great 2015!

Remko Tronçon

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