Some weeks ago, I had asked a women-only list how to engage a bunch of 5-12 y.o kids with science and math via linux in a fun, engaging way. Telling kids to learn foo-programming language is not my idea of a fun learning experience. My dislike for multimedia learning tools in pirated CD's with propreitary software extends to gizmos like playstations and Wii (no offense).
I'd love to see floss tools that teach algebra and geometry in a fun way without the scary "math" word, but existing floss tools are highly limited in quantity and mostly target the pre-teen and teen's for Science learning. Think alice.org, which is at the other end of the spectrum expecting some user/learner contribution, a wee bit much for a 5-7 y.o to grasp.
When I saw a similar post by Adam, who is looking for kids games, the thought of sharing the interesting responses these women gave came up but I cant post their experiences sans permission, so I'll just post the links and names of the games they responded with.#0. Squeak or Scratch.
#1. MIT also has the physics simulations gallery on their Scratch site.
#2. A TED talk by Alan Kay about teaching kids
#3. TUX racer game.
#4. Yahtzee game.
#5. Mahjongg. [I think this is a good pattern matching and visual game]
#6. A hello world programming book for teens and maybe even pre-teens.
#7. World of Goo : http://2dboy.com/games.php [physics based puzzle construction game for kids]
#9. Pingus, available in the Ubuntu repository.
#10. Picocricket (basic microcontroller programming, sensors, actuators): http://www.picocricket.com/picoboard.html
Some links from Adams blog need internet access while others dont.
#11. http://gcompris.net/ [apt-get the recent GCompris version from Thomas Petazzoni's Unofficial debian repo]
Returning to games that you can install on your linux machine, there is a whole range of games available in the debian/ubuntu repos and your default Ubuntu installation categorizes the logic games under Applications>Games>Logic, and the ones which I like are Klotski, Five or more, Same Gnome and Sudoku. Some kids (under 10 yrs) love Mahjongg, but then some games are suitable for anyone interested enough to try it.
Having said that, I still feel that a machine cannot (and should not) replace the human touch. The natural curiosity of a kid's mind is something a machine can never replicate, currently atleast. That is where atleast one parent or relative or friend or teacher who makes science interesting will help a kid assimilate and relate to science a lot more than schools dumping linux or science on them in grade 5, or whenever it is that schools introduce computers to kids. For example, Just spin a yarn around the Chinese postman problem, and the kids wont even realise they solved a wee bit of graph theory. This may perhaps be my cognitive bias speaking so i'll just echo Stephen's thoughts : http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2009/09/operating-system-for-mind.html (a must read).