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Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Math Galaxy

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Finding the perfect math program (or collection of programs) can be a challenge, there are simply so many on the market. How to choose? We recently had the opportunity to try out Math Galaxy’s entire suite of math programs and worksheets (I’ve included the title screens so you can see all the topics covered):

  • Whole Numbers Fun (grades 1-4) for $24.95

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  • The Whole Numbers Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Whole Number Riddles e-book for $12.95
  • Fractions Fun (grade 5) for $24.95

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  • Fractions Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Fractions Riddles E-Book for $12.95
  • Decimals, Proportions and % Fun (grade 6) for $24.95

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  • Decimals, Proportions, and % Worksheet Generator for $24.95
  • Word Problems Fun (complements the other programs) for $24.95

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  • Pre-Algebra Fun for $24.95

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  • Algebra Fundamentals for $24.95

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  • Algebra Worksheet Generator for $24.95

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received free downloads of Math Galaxy’s software and e-books for review purposes. I received no financial compensation. This review reflects my honest observations of this product.

Math Galaxy is a series of simple, straightforward computer programs that “tutor” your child in various math topics. The idea is that the student can focus on weak areas, rather than going through every topic. While there are some “review” topics offered that give a fuller explanation, this is not a full curriculum, but a supplement that offers plenty of additional practice.

Problems are set up so you can choose to answer them “step-by-step” or just give the final answer. In either case, the computer “shows” how you arrived at the correct answer through visual manipulatives once you give the correct answer.

There are no distracting sound effects. Graphics are very simple. Perhaps a bit too simple in some cases. Some children may have difficulty linking these round balls with coins:

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Explanations that are given tend to be reading intensive, as there is no sound. If your child is not a strong reader, you will have read the explanations to him.

Problems are randomly generated and the programs keep no record of progress. Each session is a blank slate. The advantage is there is no need for multiple profiles if you are using the programs with multiple children and there’s no limit to the number of children who can use the programs. But the disadvantages are numerous. There’s no way for you, as the parent, to go into the program and find out how many problems your child completed, what types of problems he completed, how many he got correct or incorrect, or which problems he is having problems with or anything like that (unless you are standing right next to him, watching).

There is no gradual increase in difficulty in a problem set. So a child who has a basic understanding may become discouraged when they get several difficult problems in a row.

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“Robots” are the main reward in Math Galaxy’s math exercises. For every correct answer to a problem, the student earns a robot which can be used in a little arcade-type game called “The Labyrinth.” If your child answers a problem incorrectly, they will get 2 more chances to get it right. And if they still get it wrong, the computer will give them the correct answer and still give them another robot to use in the Labyrinth. Since each problem earns a robot, your child could answer a few 2-second questions and then spend the better part of an hour playing the Labyrinth.

There are other games that are more of a challenge, including the “Math Riddler” (solving math problems to “decode” a riddle) and “Bridge the Swamp,” which requires some strategy and math skills.

I found the math exercises to be time intensive, especially using the “step-by-step” option. For a double digit addition problem, for example, the computer asks you what digit goes in the ones column, then tells you if you are correct, shows adding up the ones, puts that digit in the ones column, asks you how many tens you are carrying, and so on. Giving the final answer is not much faster.

The worksheet generators are similar to other worksheet generators I’ve seen and used online, with one main difference: they offer hundreds of “riddle” worksheets in addition to the more traditional worksheets. My 10-year-old, who likes all things having to do with spies and despises worksheets in general, didn’t mind these as there was a riddle to solve and only a handful of problems per sheet. One problem: once he had solved a few of the problems and filled in those letters, it was easy for him to guess what the riddle’s answer was without solving all the problems.

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The e-books offer a selection of the same worksheets in pdf format, simply print a handful or the whole book as you need them.

Math Galaxy system requirements: Windows 98 or later or Mac OS X and a CD-ROM drive for installation. My machine is running Windows XP. The programs installed and ran with no problems.

Software is available on cd (ships free!) for $24.95/program. License entitles you to install to one computer. E-books are available for download for $12.95 each.

You can access many of the math exercises as Java Applets on the Math Galaxy website for free, as demos.

To read reviews of this product by other homeschoolers, visit:

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