Great Linux games for school children?
December 2, 2014 10:32 AM   Subscribe

My foster kids are 7 and 8. I recently turned over my Thinkpad X40 (running Debian) for their exclusive use. It is old and underpowered, but they're loving "their" computer. I installed GCompris and the Tux4Kids suite (TuxMath, TuxPaint, TuxType), which they really enjoy, and I'd like to find more games for them.

I'm especially interested in educational games. They need to work on arithmetic drills, vocabulary words and matching meanings (they do fine on spelling tests but I'd like to help them expand their vocabulary a bit), and measuring skills (intro science stuff--mass, finding lengths). I'd love to see them work on problem solving, too. They tend to clam up when a problem requires them to think instead of reach into their head for the known-correct answer.

I see some good suggestions at but those are geared towards a three year old.

Any suggestions for older kids?
posted by amandabee to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not exactly a game, but Stellarium is great for finding stars and constellations. If you wish to go beyond Planet Earth, go for Celestia. If you wish to stay on Earth, you could use Marble.

For Mathematics, I'd skip programs and go directly to Khan Academy. It's already built for mathematical education up to calculus, with a lot of gamelike mechanics (levels, badges and such)

Regarding vocabulary, I've heard lots of praise for GoldenDict but I've never actually used myself, so YMMV.

Last but not least, have you tried flashcard software? Mnemosyne might help there.
posted by andycyca at 11:07 AM on December 2, 2014

I suspect the answer is "not many". You might be able to do find some web based games that will work in a browser but that opens up the possibility of surfing the web instead of learning. Another option would be to run Windows games under Wine.
posted by Poldo at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2014

There's a huge world of web-based educational games out there. Chrome tends to be better than Firefox for the flash-based ones because Chrome packages a newer version of Flash through the pepper api so it "just works" whereas Firefox is kind of stuck on Flash 11.x. I'd go that route before exploring linux-specific stuff.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2014

I don't have young kids, so I can't speak directly to specific ones, but here is a partial list of some educational software on Ubuntu (which I'm spot checking in Debian, and I've found every one I've looked for so far).

Here's another list.

And if you use Software Center instead of Synaptic, they have a whole Education category you can browse around in. When I'm looking for software, my usual MO is just to go in and install a million different things, try them out, and then uninstall the ones I don't like. It's a lot quicker and more effective than actually researching and trying to choose.

Again, sorry I can't make specific recommendations. I did set up a Linux box for some young relatives a while ago, but I didn't pay much attention to which apps they liked.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:20 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

For problem solving, you might check out a children's programming environment like Scratch (on preview, I see it's listed in ernielundquist's second link). Also, there seem to be multiple linux and web-based versions of Lemmings (again for problem solving). Come to think of it, something along the lines of The Incredible Machine could be great.
posted by trig at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2014

Oh, I can't believe I forgot about this, but you can actually install Sugar, the OS from the OLPC project, in a regular Linux distro or on a bootable thumb drive. I have not run the virtual version, but I had a seven year old visitor a couple of years ago who took to my XO laptop immediately. The OS is a little weird, and a lot of people hate it, but he's a little weird, too, and it really drew him in.

It's not a sure bet, but it's free and it is a fairly comprehensive learning environment designed for exactly the type of things you're looking for, so it might be worth trying it out just to see whether they like it or not.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:56 PM on December 2, 2014

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