Thursday, March 25, 2010

Math Galaxy

Ever wish you had a math tutor for your child? Math Galaxy offers its services by promising to help K-12 students "connect abstract concepts of math to concrete experiences with graphical illustrations at each step..." Our family received a free download of Math Galaxy's computer program Whole Numbers Fun in exchange for this review. My second grade daughter, Sierra, assisted me in discovering the best and worst of Math Galaxy.

Whole Numbers Fun is one of six computer programs offered by Math Galaxy. Other programs include:

  • Fractions Fun
  • Decimals, Proportions and Percentage Fun
  • Word Problems Fun
  • Pre-Algebra Fun
  • Algebra Fundamentals

Unlike my version, customers receive programs on CD for $29.95. Math Galaxy is currently offering FREE SHIPPING for any programs ordered.

With all the "FUN" mentioned by Math Galaxy in the titles of their programs I expected great things. Math has NOT been FUN for Sierra this year. With the promise of changing her experience we put Whole Numbers Fun to task.

Whole Numbers Fun is a very basic computer program. The graphics included are simple. There are no cute characters, rocket ships, sound effects, etc., just basic shapes and numbers.We could not discover an instructions page or help link, but most of the program was intuitive. Not realizing at first how very basic the program was, I double checked my computer's speakers to determine if the sound was off. It wasn't. There are NO sound effects or audio cues to guide students in the learning process. Math Galaxy programs are strictly visual.

Upon opening the computer program Sierra chose to practice addition and clicked on the button to let the fun begin. Next, she chose which whole number to use for addition practice, typing in number 6. The next screen presented an option of "random" or "in order" practice of addition problems related to number 6.

When testing a portion of the Adding section of Whole Numbers Fun the screen displayed large basic shapes at the top of the page and numbers organized in a number sentence directly below the shapes. A faint white box sectioning off ten of the shapes gave the visual cue to help students build awareness of the ease of organizing ones into tens for addition.

Unfortunately, when Sierra typed in her first few answers we couldn't find them on the screen. We typed the answer several times, tried to find a cursor with our mouse, but nothing showed up. Without a help icon or other instructions Sierra and I became easily frustrated. Fortunately, within a few minutes, we discovered the answer had appeared at the bottom of the screen not near the number sentence problem as anticipated. Sierra's previous typing attempts displayed an incorrect answer, and even though we tried to backspace to delete it, the program wouldn't let us. We finally solved the problem by hitting enter on the keyboard, which allowed us a second attempt at solving the problem. Math Galaxy teaches to mastery and will not allow students to continue to other problems without solving each one correctly.

When a problem is solved correctly a giant red message of CORRECT! appears as a reward. In addition, (pardon the pun) students are rewarded with "robots" for correct answers during a drill. These robots are used in the Labyrinth, a separate game aspect of the program. The games in the Labyrinth are reminiscent of early Atari games in design. They begin with a page of instructions/directions, but we still struggled to get the games to operate correctly. Many robots died in the Labyrinth due to our sad game playing ability.

Sierra summed up our game experience quite well when asked for her opinion."I kind of liked the robot game a little bit", she said. "I liked the different caves, but I didn't like it when we couldn't get the robot to move", she added.

Although the design of Whole Numbers Fun is not high-tech the material covered is comprehensive. Topics in the program are typical of grades 1-4 math curricula. They include:

  • Adding
  • Subtracting
  • Multiplying
  • Dividing
  • Place Value
  • Rounding and Estimating
  • Patterns and Sequences
  • Time
  • Money Length
  • Area
  • Volume
  • Pictographs
  • Bar Graphs
  • Probability
  • Riddles

Games on the CD designed to stretch critical thinking skills include:

  • Word Problems
  • Word Jumbles
  • Bridge the Swamp
  • Riddles
  • Labyrinth
  • Word Jumbles
  • Bridge the Swamp
Whole Numbers Fun, offers a relatively inexpensive option for math drill practice. By nature, computer programs usually last through multiple children making the initial investment a true bargain. Customers are offered a 30-Day money back guarantee at the company website, Coupled with the FREE SHIPPING offer I would encourage anyone interested in their own test market experience to give it a try.

Although I am not a fan of Math Galaxy, my experience with computer programs and children is that even the most basic are worth a child's time. What I view as simple is rarely met with as much skepticism by my younger students. Sierra summed up her experience with Math Galaxy by pointing out her favorite aspects of the program. "I like how they show you the problems with shapes to help you solve it. I liked typing on the computer too."

1 comment:

zingiber said...

I like the way you provide the comments and insights of one of your own children using this math program. It is important that we view learning approaches through the eyes and minds of children for whom they are designed.

I also appreciate the thoroughness of your reviews. For this reviewer, ratings are not either black or white, but show a nuance that identifies clearly the good and the bad features of the program

bob hochwalt