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Leo’s first grade class has a group project to create stores to sell products that they make in their makerlab. Leo’s team (he and two pals) have chosen to make and (try to) sell Pokemon cards. We actually haven’t encouraged Leo in playing Pokemon; we’re torn about it basically being a physical analog of the sort of video-games that we pretty much don’t let him play.

Even though some commentators have opined that Pokemon is good for kids’ arithmetic skills, Leo’s math skills seem to be doing fine without Pokemon exposure, and enough other have had the opposite opinion. As I’ve said elsewhere, generally we don’t allow Leo to play any game that he didn’t program himself. Regardless, Leo has enough friends who are Pokemon fiends that he knows a lot about the game, and is regularly creating his own pseudo-Pokemon cards at home.

Since this store project requires the kids to actually make the things they sell, they can’t just become a Pokemon reseller. But, as just mentioned, Leo has been making his own pseudo-Pokemon cards for some time, so I had the idea to create a whole new science-based Pokemon.

Pause…. Simultaneous with all this, Leo has become fascinated with dangerous chemistry, like explosives and poisons, and so on. I think that this comes from his reading Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, which involves a wide variety of comical evil-doings.

Anyway, so this gave me the common ground from which we created Poke-Chem!

Too briefly, the way Poke-Chem works is that you have cards that represent the common elemental molecules (like O2, H2, etc.), and then rules of combination (reactions, obviously) that enable them to combine to create molecules that have either healthful properties (like water), or damaging properties (like ammonia). Here’s are some of the elemental molecules:

IMG_8748 IMG_8736 IMG_8741

And here’s the table of costs, reactions, and so forth:


Note that even with these few elements you can get all the way to TNT via Benzene, thence Toluene, thence TNT!

One of the cleverest parts of this is that not only can you make healthful molecules like water, and damaging ones like TNT, but you can also bank you money and gain interest by buying and holding gold (Au), silver (Ag), or platinum (Pt). Here’s the part of the table that gives the compounding rates for these:


and we spent a great deal of time experimenting with the compound algebraic interest formula to get these into a sensible zone for the rules of the game.

Next time we may get into what really happens with commodity markets! 🙂