Feb 25, 2011

TOS Review: MathRider

When I first tried out for the TOS Crew, I was kinda hoping we would get lots of awesome stuff to review, and that has happened, but I was not even expecting to discover brand new homeschooling products that would literally knock our socks off. That is what happened with the product I am going to tell you about today.
First, let me explain that my eight year old daughter hates math. Not because she doesn't understand it, nor even because she isn't any good at it, but mostly just because it bores her. I can totally relate, because I feel the same way: you add this number to that number and it ALWAYS equals the same number and you just do it over and over and over again until you finally get addition down and then they spring subtraction on you! Our search for a math curriculum was not so much to find something that excited or interested her, but merely to find something that didn't cause her to weep over every problem.
MathRider is not a full curriculum, but is a facts drilling computer program. Kaytie saw it when I got the first email about it and immediately was interested. By the time I got it downloaded and set up for her to play, she was drooling all over herself, excited and eager to play. None of this was too surprising, because it is a computer program after all, and playing on the computer is a treat to my kids. However, the next day, she asked me, first thing, "Can I play MathRider again today?" I was shocked, especially when she continued to ask me, daily, to play, and chose it whenever she had free computer time, and talked about it, with great excitement and enthusiasm whenever she wasn't playing it.
MathRider aims to teach kids fact mastery from addition to division. It does this by sending them on magical  "Quests" which they achieve by answering math problems. Their horse gallops along and has to jump over hurdle. Each hurdle is a math problem, and if the answer is typed in time, the horse jumps the hurdle. If the answer is wrong, or not typed in time, then the horse stops and the problem and answer is both shown on the screen and read aloud. Getting the answers wrong guarantees that problem will show up again, often.

The program keeps track of correct and incorrect answers and shows them in a graph that both the teacher and the student can access. Kaytie loves looking at her graph and knowing which problems she knows and which she needs to work on. (Nate could care less about this feature.)  At the end of each ride, a bar graph shows them which problems they did quickly and correctly, and which they need to "watch out" for and which they got wrong.

After a certain number of problems, you finish the "ride" and the score is calculated, based, best I can tell, on correct answers with extra credit given for speed. Your horse slows down if you are slow at answering, but you are rewarded for quick, correct answers. This moves you forward on the Quest Map. That part is exciting for my kids. They love watching their progress on the map and seeing what they are going to be riding through next, Desert Lands, or around Dragon Mountains.

The scenery in the background changes as you ride across the map, but I'm not sure the kids have noticed, because they are focused on their math problems. The program starts with very basic problems: the ones and zeros facts, and then moves on from there, with the goal being complete mastery of all facts. Completing a quest earns you a reward (a flower or a jewel for example) that appears on your main page. We haven't achieved mastery yet, but I think the rewards for mastery are bigger and better. :)

What makes this game fun for Kaytie is that: one, she loves horses; two, the stories behind the quests engage her and make her eager to get the answers right so she can find out what happens next; and three, there is little negative pressure, if she answers slowly, the game slows down for her, if she misses a question or two, she doesn't have to start completely over.
Nate loves the challenge of moving as quickly as he can around the map and succeeding at his Quest. He knows that getting too many wrong answers will keep him from making any forward progress, so there is motivation to think about it and do it right the first time.

Here is their opinion about it:

Kaytie said: I like it! Especially because of the horses, because I really like horses. And I like how I can save my quests so that I don’t have to start it over again. But what I really like is how you can earn things and get farther and farther on your quest, and that there are new places where you can go. I like that I can know what I really need to work on, so that Mom knows what to make me work on. I would recommend it to other kids who don’t like math but do like horses.

Nate said: I like MathRider because I do lots of different challenges. It is fun and very exciting. My favorite thing is doing all the different challenges. I would recommend it very much! It helps me learn math because it teaches me math by making it a challenge. There is nothing I don’t like about it.

What I like about it is that this game makes them beg to do math and I can see that they are truly learning while having fun. I like the statistics page, where it tells me exactly what problems they know, where they fall on the mastery scale and what their biggest challenge is at any given time. (It updates after each "ride")  I like that the program adjusts to give them the problems they need to work on and doesn't waste their time with problems they have already mastered. I also like the fact that it goes all the way up to division and that I can easily add up to ten players to our account. There is also a Practice Run feature, where you chose which number and operation your child needs to work on. Whatever happens in the Practice Run does not effect the rest of the game. So there is no pressure, only practice.

For this review, we were allowed a limited time download of the product, but we WILL be buying the full version with no expiration date. Our whole family loves MathRider, but don't just take our word for it, you can check it out here, at their website, or you can see what other Crew Members thought here.

And as always, this product was sent to me free for the purposes of this review. Our glowing opinions are honest and our own. 

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