Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Math Game for Kids! (And adults, too!)

I had the opportunity, this month, to review an intelligent math game called MathRider.  This math facts game boggles my mind! Let me tell you about it.
This game is geared toward students who have already been taught their math facts (it can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division). This math game is then used to cement these math facts to memory, as well as speed up the recall while requiring accuracy.
The game amazes me. It was created by a software architect, the father of two daughters, when he found that his daughters were not adequately retaining their math facts to memory. They understood the concepts that were being taught, but needed more math practice. Flash cards and computer games had been tried, but they so quickly became dry and boring that the girls stopped using them, and the math practice would grind to a halt. In came Dad, with his computer expertise, and created an adventure scenario that interested the kids and kept them wanting to come back for more.

Then Dad (Thomas Brand) added smart software that keeps track of which problems they are having trouble with, how fast it takes them to answer, which ones are being answered incorrectly. He balanced this information with the problems the student gets correctly, and interspersed difficult problems with problems they can get right, so the student does not become discouraged. If a problem is answered incorrectly, the correct answer is given, and then an easier problem is asked, and then the incorrect problem comes again. The program is amazing and relentless. It tracks time to answer each question, number of times child has taken the quest, improvement of student over the course of time, and much more.

There is one story line for each level of difficulty, so four story lines in all. The levels of difficult for each type of math problem are: Easy (numbers 0 through 5); Medium (numbers 0-10); Advanced (numbers 0-12); and Master (being able to do Advanced at a certain speed minimum). When you have worked on a math discipline for a certain period of time, and have earned a certain number of points (which is illustrated by completing a certain distance on a map), you reach the quest's goal and have completed the quest. The quest must be completed to a certain level of accuracy in order to receive credit for having completed it, which proficiency will be rewarded by accomplishing the quest's goal (finding the rare flower to save your mother), and also gives a reward on the main starting page. (For example, one of the rewards for completing a quest might be a glowing jewel or a blooming flower.) When a level of  proficiency has been demonstrated at the Master level, a very special screen reward appears, but I shouldn't give that away. The student must work to earn that reward!

Now you may have noticed that I wrote all of the above in the 1st person. There is a reason. My 6th grader, that I hoped would try out the program, never did. His math skills are very good, and for some reason he HATES math anyway! So I just didn't want to push it. I did have the opportunity to use the program as well with a six year old, the complete other end of the spectrum (still struggling to learn basic easy problems), because I wanted to see how it was received. He liked many aspects to the game, especially the way the horse jumps over the jump when the problem is answered correctly. (The jump dissolves into dust when the problem is not answered correctly!) I made it a point to end the time on MathRider before he got discouraged. Tomorrow I may work with him with some manipulatives before we spend time on the game.

Here's the down and dirty: 
  • MathRider, by Thomas Brand (of Australia), is a game to help bright children who understand math concepts but are still struggling to memorize the basic math facts.
  •  MathRider retails for $49.95 and is currently on sale for $37. You can even try it out  for free for 7 days to see if it is right for you. The price goes up 2/15/12.
  • MathRider has a free 7-day trial so you can try it out and see what you think. One purchase can be used for as many people as you want. So, for the trial, you can set up an account in your own name and try it out so that you can really understand how it works, what it does, etc.
  • MathRider is helpful for any child who needs to improve their mastery of math facts. It is ideally designed to help 3rd and 4th graders cement their facts to their brains, but is helpful from the very earliest math learners to the remedial math student. That would usually be 6th grade, but even I, as an adult, improved my speed and accuracy using the problem. I used it all the way to mastery in all four types of operation.
  • When math becomes fun, children are better able to learn!
  •  MathRider is a computer that you load to your computer. I loaded mine from a link online, as you would load your 7-day free trial. I think the purchased edition must be in CD format, based on the pictures I am seeing.
  • You add "riders" (players) to the game to start. . The program keeps statistics of each individual rider, and each has its own password.
  •  Once you purchase this program, you get all upgrades for free. You can keep the program parked on your computer and use it with each of your children as they work their way through the various stages of learning their math facts.
I really liked the thought that went into the creation of this product. I liked how smart it is, how it knows which equations caused problems (and throws them back again and again), but also alternates with non-problematic equations so the student does not become discouraged. I like the availability of the program creator; I liked the one-to-one customer service.

I did not like the limited number of story lines, but I liked that there is a button to go straight to the quest, bypassing the story once you have heard it. I liked the direction of the story lines, because they seem to be ideas that would appeal to both boys and girls.

I was very impressed by this product, and even more so after a teleconference with its creator, so that I became aware of some features that I had not noticed or been aware of on my own. I like the way it counts time to answer problem, statistics of number right, number wrong, times taking quest, number of quests to reach completion. I found a nice balance between its demand for accuracy and its demand for speed in answering questions.

I will be recommending this program to my friends when the mention that their kids are struggling to memorize their math facts. I hope, eventually, that I can get my son to take a stab at this program, and maybe I can see how well he really does know his math facts!
Disclosure: I received two month's use of MathRider in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I received no other compensation (other than the aforementioned), and this page contains my honest opinions.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.

TOG Crew Review page for this product.Throw me a bone! Leave me a comment! I love comments!

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