OK, let’s see, if this line bisects this line...


. . .and this angle plus this angle equals 180 degrees...


. . . .then the answer is D!

Sure, it’s a challenge to do geometry when two friends are shouting out types of furniture, but that’s the whole point of Numbskull, an SAT preparation game invented by Emory law student Michael Bergman.

Bergman had a brainstorm while playing Cranium–which involves not only logic and trivia, but also sculpting with clay, spelling backward, and humming a tune–with his family over Thanksgiving break.

“We started discussing ideas for board games, and came up with an SAT prep game,” says Bergman, who was a business major at Washington University in St. Louis at the time. “My sister was in the process of taking her SATs and had taken a prep class, and I had taken the LSAT the previous summer, but the idea of designing a straight SAT game didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to just take the review program and put it on flash cards. There had to be a way to have a good time with it.”

Bergman, an entrepreneur who ran his own T-shirt company in college, wanted to combine pop culture with quadratic equations, silly tasks with sentence completions, and physical challenges with mental strategies. After months of experimenting with different ideas, he drafted a one-page pitch.

The Cincinnati company Late for the Sky, which produces regional take-offs on Monopoly, bought the idea, using Bergman’s prototype to design Numbskull ($29.95, available at area bookstores and on-line at http://www.lateforthesky.com).

“We believed strongly that it could really help a lot of students. Absolutely,” said Shannon Edwards of Late for the Sky. “It’s selling very well. Some schools are even starting to carry it in their guidance departments.”

Questions include pop-cultural references, such as: How many tight dresses with no backs could Jennifer [Lopez] try on in 420 minutes if she can put on nineteen in an hour?

“I’m a visual learner,” says Bergman. “We try to use situations students can relate to–buying concert tickets, or hot dogs at a ball game, rather than bushels of apples.”

On timed questions, competing players perform physical stunts (like sit-ups) or recite lists (such as ten country-western artists). At the end of the game, players take the NSAT (Numbskull SAT) to get an idea of how well they might do on the real test. Ties are broken with a game of “Paper, Rock, Scissors.”

With about 1.3 million high-schoolers taking the SAT annually, the game has a fresh crop of potential players each year. “My biggest hope,” says Bergman, “is that Numbskull will make students feel comfortable and relaxed when they walk into that test room on a Saturday morning.”–M.J.L.

Other Précis articles:

A return to scholarship

End of an era

• Triumph of imagination

• A not-so-modest proposal

• Seeing with new eyes

• Faculty author resigns

• Way cool

• SAT prep made easy

• Remembering Michael C. Carlos

• Remembering Sanford S. Atwood

• Henry who?

• Awakening the demon

• Bringing science to life




© 2003 Emory University