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Friday, February 25, 2011

Math Rider, a review

mathrider opening

Memorizing your math facts…can be a bit boring.

And overwhelming…hence the plethora of computer games on the market designed to make the task a little more enjoyable.

Maybe even fun.

They tend to go to extremes, though…with some it’s hard to see the learning buried under all the bells and whistles. And others are no more exciting than a good ol’ piece of paper, a pencil and a timer.

The developers of Math Rider saw a need for a new kind of math computer game that would reward their struggling kiddos while they learned the math facts, without sucking them into a mind-numbing video game. The end result is a cross between straight math drill and a magical storybook quest.

Math Rider will gradually get your kiddos up to speed with all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) through 4 different levels (the final level is “master”). With each level comes a new colorfully illustrated quest.

mathrider quest

The actual game-play is nothing more than typing in the correct answers to math problems, allowing your “Math Rider” to jump upcoming obstacles.

mathrider play

As you finish a board, the program shows you how you did on each problem.

mathrider screenshot

Hovering over each bar will show you what problem it represents and how long it took you to answer it.

The map shows you your overall progress on the quest.

mathrider map

How quickly you arrive at your destination is determined by how accurately and quickly you answer the problems. It takes multiple rides to complete each quest.

Over time, you’ll see your statistics improve as you master those facts.

mathrider stats

Having trouble with just a few facts? Take a practice run and choose just the facts you need to work on.

mathrider practice menu

Take a look at the Math Rider trailer:

What did we think? I know from firsthand experience how hard it can be for some kiddos to develop automaticity with their math facts. And my oldest son, David, is struggling with that right now. Add to that his absolute phobia of timed tests…I was really excited at the prospect of trying this program out. And if my 7-year-old daughter liked it? That would be a bonus.

But the kiddos weren’t so crazy about Math Rider.

Mary had two main objections:

  1. It is timed and it is possible to get a problem wrong just because you didn’t answer it quickly enough.
  2. There are only 4 different quests and they are keyed to the difficulty of the quest. So the only difference between the easy addition quest and the easy subtraction quest (for example) is the problems you solve, the story and graphics are the same.

While it would be nice to have more quests, I’m not at all bothered by her getting them wrong when she takes too long (we’re not talking a couple of seconds, here, but several seconds). The program clearly shows and tells (there’s audio) the completed problem so she can remember it for next time. Personally, if it were me, I’d want to get that answer without having to sweat it so I can learn it.

David just found it monotonous. And though there is pleasant music and nice graphics (you don’t really notice them much, though, as you are answering the problems), yes, it is fairly monotonous. Math drills can be like that.

I should point out that the first few days we had this program, both kiddos were spending a lot of time on it and kept asking when they could continue their quests…I think the novelty wore off.

As a homeschooling Mama, I love the ability to target particular math facts with the practice runs…most math programs I’ve seen can’t be that closely tailored. And I like that the program adjusts and progresses according to how your child is doing and keeps keeps track of their progress on individual facts. All the grading and timing is done for me.

I would like to be able to print the results from individual “rides” or even print out the day’s rides all on one sheet---I’m always in favor of a paper trail to add to the portfolio. But you can’t have everything. Since I can see at a glance from the stat chart if they need to work on a particular fact more, I can assign practice runs as needed and take notes on progress.

Overall, it’s good program. I just wish my children liked it.

Math Rider runs on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. For full system requirements, check this link.

Price: $37 for an instant download. Comes with a 30-day money back guarantee!

For more reviews of this and other homeschool products, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a free trial of this program for review purposes. I received no compensation. The views expressed here are my own.

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