Math Rider – Places to go, things to do, math to learn
My kids are growing up tech-savvy, in a media-saturated world where any almost any info you desire is available with a few taps on the keyboard via Google. They’re puzzled by black-and-white movies, have no concept of snowy tv reception, and are clueless at that vast gulf that exists between the video games of my childhood and what they know as normal.
My fiance loves the high-tech graphics, all the fancy bells and whistles of today’s games. Once in a while, he’ll be ooh-ing and ah-ing over a new game, and I’ll watch for a bit, and then want to know… “Ok, so that’s pretty/interesting/ugly/whatever… but where’s the STORY?”
Seems like the story gets lost in all the pretty pictures. It’s so easy to forget, with all that distraction, that what really draws you in and keeps you there and involved is the tale being told.
When we go outside the standard realm of textbook, paper, and pencil in search of more memorable educational fare for our children, that’s a detail we need to remember: It doesn’t matter how pretty the pictures are if the story doesn’t keep them interested.
And if the story pulls us in and holds us, the pictures themselves aren’t all that important.
My two youngest, Doodle and Princess, reminded me of this recently. They’ve been trying out some math drill software, Math Rider, for me – addition, subtraction, multiplication, division drill – something that pretty much every parent would like an easy way to apply, without fail, permanently and in explicit perfection, to the inside of their child’s head. Automatic, rapid access to basic math functions is one of those make it or break it details that will influence their entire math (and science) learning career.
I looked Math Rider over, played it for a while myself after installing it. First impression? That the kids would play it for a bit, then, due to the ok-but-not-spectacular graphics, they’d ignore it in favor of prettier games.
Once again, I guessed wrong. My kids might be tech-savvy and enamored of pretty graphics, but Math Rider had a sneaky trick up its sleeve.
A STORY. An epic quest, a path to follow, a reason to succeed and follow through.
Over and over again, when I’d ask the kids about it, the answer I’d receive would be full of details. Not of math facts. But of STORY. Where they’d been, where they were going, what they needed to do next, and what level and how much progress those details meant. Story. Not what I’d expecting to be the main draw in a software intended for math drill.
But no matter how unexpected, the fact of the matter is, it just plain works. It took, and kept, their attention. Still has it. And I’m hearing daily details of their math journeys.
I like it. Math drill, just numbers and symbols, there’s precious little to discuss. But a story, with a purpose – that, we can engage. Be involved in. It’s human nature, pure and simple.
Math Rider seems simplistic, and in concept and use, it is very simple. Purpose: to drill math, in a fun, engaging manner. In use: It does exactly that, with no extraneous actions, nothing to get in the way, just a story with a goal, and math practice.
The “complicated” part of Math Rider is nothing that you’ll notice. It’s “under the hood”, so to speak. Math Rider adjusts speed and problem difficulty to the student, and subtly works with them, providing positive reinforcement and encouragement while continuing forward movement. The play controls are easy to use for any child, and are intentionally set up to work, but be intuitive and unobtrusively out of the way.
Math Rider will work as a supplement to any math program, a fun alternative to traditional flash card drills. Up to ten separate users are allowed per license, and each player’s statistics are tracked individually. With regular use, skills are sure to improve, and the stats page will provide easy reference to any problem areas.
For the parent, after initial installation and setup, it’s no-prep, no-help-needed math practice. For the student, Math Rider is a pleasant change from standard paper and pencil drills and creates a compelling reason to learn – no “just because you have to” needed. They’ll provide their own initiative – because the story makes them want to know what happens next.
MathRider, available for PC, Mac, and Linux, is on sale for $37 right now. System requirements are available here, though I will mention that we were successfully playing it on a computer with a slightly slower processor then listed for the PC.
To see what other crew members had to say about this product, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Math Rider.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2010-11 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**