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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Barnum Software’s Quarter Mile Math

logoOur 9-year-old (going on 13) is totally resistant to math drills of any kind. As someone who struggled with math a good deal in the elementary years, I know the value of drills and of learning those math facts so well that they are like second nature. Who wants to get out a calculator to estimate the cost of the groceries at the store, or to double a recipe? And he thinks he wants to be an engineer someday:-) He won’t get very far without those math facts at his instant disposal. Enter The Quarter Mile Math by Barnum Software.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received The Quarter Mile Math Deluxe and Standard (Levels 1, 2, and 3 bundle) editions for review. Both programs cover 323 topics from grades K through 9. The Standard edition ($89.95 on cd) is a standalone program that you can purchase outright and use with all your children over the years. The Deluxe edition ($2.95/month) is a subscription product that requires an internet connection to work. As the “gameplay” is essentially the same regardless of the edition, let me explain how the program works, first, then I’ll get back to the differences between the two editions.


This software is designed to complement whatever math curriculum you are using. The complete bundle (levels 1, 2 and 3) covers 323 topics with over 70,000 problems. The topics range from simply entering single digit numbers (great for increasing keyboarding speed, by the way) to pre-algebra. The product does not teach these topics, but aims to improve a student’s speed in recalling facts and performing operations. Rather than just answering monotonous math problems, the player gets to power his dragster or riderless horse to go faster and faster with correct answers to the problems. With each correct answer, the dragster (or horse) accelerates.

The Quarter Mile is designed in such a way that the student is not trying to compete against another child, the computer, or even a time clock, but himself! For each new topic, he will first race against Fast Eddy, a computer generated opponent who’s going to lose (Fast Eddy gets off to a real slow start, so it’s easy to make him eat dust). After running a few races, your child notice that his times are replacing Fast Eddy times…he’s racing against himself. Incorrect answers don’t hurt progress, but they don’t help, either, and he’ll have answer each problem correctly to move on to the next problem (answering a problem incorrectly 3 times in a row will cause the program to give the correct answer, but the player still needs to enter it---good for reinforcement).

The program only keeps track of each player’s 5 top races for each topic. So, if your child has an off day and runs a poor race, it won’t drag down his average. It also notes even miniscule time improvements (how’s a hundredth of a second?), so as long as a student keeps at it, he should start seeing improvement over time.

quartermileraceresultsThe picture to the left shows the results from a race. Your child will always be in the far left lane. Towards the bottom, you’ll see the top 5 average for that topic for that player.

Mary and David both tried out this program. Mary (age 5) likes to do the keyboarding topics which allow her to practice typing single digits and single letters---good for number and letter recognition as well as learning the keyboard. She loved to see her progress over time (the fastest time displays closest to the top of the screen, so it’s easy for her to see how she’s doing). My biggest challenge was getting her to stop playing the game, lol.

David was pretty interested, at first. But he became frustrated whenever he entered an incorrect answer. If you enter an incorrect answer, that answer stays on the screen for a few seconds and you cannot enter the correct answer until it disappears. Doesn’t sound like a problem, does it? But if you are intent on the problem and answering it quickly, you don’t really notice that an incorrect answer is remaining on the screen (keeping you from entering a new answer) as your typed answer doesn’t appear right after the problem but off to the right (I tried it myself, and it is a little disorienting). I think this is a small problem that he’ll get past with some more practice using the program.

Standard or Deluxe? The Deluxe edition is really a monthly subscription that requires a constant internet connection to be used as all the races are stored on a database that needs to be accessed before and after each race. The program will shut down if it is unable to access the internet. If your internet connection is at all iffy, this can be a problem. Also, if you think you’ll be using the program for many years, it may be more cost-effective to pay a one-time expense to own a copy of the software. On the other hand, there are a few distinct advantages to the Deluxe edition.

quartermilestudentprogressThe Deluxe edition gives you access to a single screen where you can track the topics your child has been working on, their average time, the number of races and the number of correct answers. The only record keeping the Standard edition has is the average of the top 5 races for each topic and you’ll have to access each topic separately to find the information , a little tedious and not altogether helpful.

Either edition can be installed onto multiple computers, but the Deluxe can actually be used on multiple computers simultaneously, no waiting in line for bro or sis to finish, if you are fortunate to have more than one computer with internet access. The Deluxe is also available as a downloadable file, so it can be easily installed on computers with no optical drive (like this netbook I’m typing on:-). The Standard comes on cd and the cd must be in the drive for the program to work.

You can also do real-time tournaments with the Deluxe edition. Real-time meaning that both players race at the same time on separate computers, though they won’t show up on each other’s screens. This is minor, though, as you can coordinate tournaments with the Standard edition, the players simply won’t be racing at the same time.

The Deluxe comes with free upgrades. Upgrades are available for the Standard edition for $5 each.

The Quarter Mile Math is available for both PC (Windows 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP, and Vista) and Mac (System 8.x through OS X):

The Quarter Mile Math Deluxe subscription is available for:

  • $2.95 per family per month or
  • $19.95 per family for 1 year or
  • $34.95 per family for 2 years

The Quarter Mile Math Standard edition Levels 1, 2, and 3 Bundle is available for $89.95. Each level is also available separately.

Try a free demo today.

Now through the end of September, enter the following code when you order and receive $5 off any product at Barnum Software:


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