Easton company donates math games to Ukraine schools

It was early February and young students at the World ORT school Zhabotinski Lyceum No. 94 in Ukraine were standing around a big brown shipping box with “Easton, PA” marked on the side. As they watched, the teacher opened the container and started pulling out small boxes with the logo 24 Game on them.

The games came from the educational game company Suntex International, based in Easton and owned by Lehigh Valley Jewish community member Nan Ronis and her husband, Robert Sun. Suntex donated hundreds of 24 Games and other hands-on math games to be sent to Ukraine schools as the war with Russia neared its two-year mark. 

Ronis had been in touch with World ORT, a 140-year-old global education network driven by Jewish values, about 24 Game for years. Invented by Sun in 1988, the game teaches elementary-age students math skills in a fun and engaging way. There are no words on the game cards—just the universal language of numbers. 

“My 93-year old dad, Max Ronis, is from a family that emigrated to the United States from Odesa,” said Nan. “When the war broke out, he said to me, ‘Nan, you have to help the children there. Send your games to Ukraine.’”

Nan explained that Suntex’s approach to education is to create opportunities for “social interaction” and to build confidence in students through “joyful learning.”  The donation was a way for her to bring some of that joy to students in Ukraine, providing educational resources while giving a nod to her ancestors. Though the games and many more modules are available online on the company’s First in Math platform, a hands-on experience was important for these students, a unique educational opportunity during a time of crisis.

This gift was facilitated by the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley and its executive director, Jeri Zimmerman. Zimmerman was moved by Ronis’s desire to share these resources with students in Ukraine who have faced unthinkable trauma over the past two years. She got in touch with a local Ukraine relief agency and coordinated shipment to six ORT schools across the country. 

Mila Finkelstein, CEO of ORT-Ukraine, loves that the games go beyond math and will help students develop communication and English skills as they work together in small groups. “Usually, our schools are very limited in using unusual educational materials and books that don’t have a special state registration or recommendation,” she said. “This time, it was an immediate decision: Yes, we want them! They are super! I believe these beautiful games will help our kids to improve their skills in English and math.”

Perhaps even more important, with the situation in Ukraine remaining volatile, Finkelstein explained that while the games will be used in regular school lessons and after-school lessons, they will also be used in shelters during air raids as a welcome distraction.

“It is difficult to find here in Ukraine any person, kid, family, school not impacted by the war,” she said. “Even in the safest city of Ukraine, Chernivtsi, kids are spending hours in shelters. A lot of parents are in the Israel Defense Forces. They’ve lost their parents and relatives.

“We are trying to use any possible occasion to make the childhood of our ‘kids of war’ as peaceful and joyful as possible. These games are part of this very difficult task.”