The game of learning

Published 11:31 am Friday, April 2, 2010

When Tony Ripley wants to help teach his second-grade son, Ammon, about math, he doesn’t pull out a textbook or a calculator.

Instead, Ripley’s much more likely to grab a deck of cards or some dice and invent a game to help teach Ammon a mathematic principle.

Ripley owns the Gamealogical Institute, an online storefront where he sells educational yet fun games. He’s also running an after-school program at select schools in Shelby County, including Oak Mountain Elementary, Oak Mountain Intermediate, Valley Intermediate and Inverness Elementary.

Ripley said he came up with the idea of the after-school program about a month ago.

“I’ve been making up games since probably third grade, so I’m finally jumping in with both feet,” he said.

Games are the perfect way to teach kids concepts important for school and for life, Ripley said.

“In classes, (kids) need to learn skills and understand a sequence or consequence,” he said. “Well, all of these things happen in games. What do I need to roll to get to the spot I need to be in? Do I need to be on the attack right now, or do I need to be on the defensive?”

Ripley said he’s currently set a limit of 12 participants for each school’s after-school program. He said the children are excited to see him when he walks into schools now.

“These last few days when I walk into the schools, rolling my crate with my hat on, the kids are like, ‘What have you got? What are you doing?'” he said.

Ripley does the program to help kids have fun while learning – maybe enough fun that they forget they’re learning.

“When the kids catch on to a game and you see that light come on in their eyes, they think to themselves, ‘What do I need to know to be successful?'” Ripley said. “They don’t think, ‘I’m getting better at math.’ They think, ‘I need to know my numbers so I can beat Tommy.’ The skills become a means to an end.”

The after-school classes are eight weeks apiece. For pricing information, contact Ripley at 901-9761. More information about the classes and games can be found online at