Review – Math Rider
Cheyenne has been playing Math Rider, a math drill game, this last few weeks to brush up on her mental math skills. We’ve reviewed Math Rider in the past – during our review of Math Rider from two years ago, all four of my kids were using the software – but with a limited number of computers, Cheyenne didn’t have the amount of free time then to use it as often as she does now.
Math Rider is easy to use, but with tons of complicated things going on in the background that the user doesn’t have to worry about – or even know about – to make the best use of it. Designed to drill addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts from 0-12, the basic concept is simple.
A student logs into the program (each student will have their own file that remembers their progress), and is presented with a screen that displays choices as to what “quest” (the skill and difficulty being practiced) they wish to play. There are four levels of difficulty: Easy, 0-5; Medium, 0-10; Advanced, 0-12; and Master, which must be unlocked by successful practice in the previous levels before it will open for use.
Then the student is presented with still picture cut scenes, describing the story for that adventure – which pretty much sets up the incentive for wanting to play and succeed. The images used for the cut scenes are vivid and bright; my photos don’t do this software justice. (Please forgive my (admittedly terrible) photos, screen print was NOT wanting to cooperate on my computer.)
After the story lead-in, the screen switches to a side view of a horse (and rider) running through the countryside. The background scrolls horizontally as the horse runs, giving an impression of both movement and depth. From the right side of the screen, jumps appear – and have a math problem below them.
When the player enters the correct answer and presses return, the equation flies off the screen, and the horse will make that jump. If an incorrect answer is entered, the numbers will turn red and the player needs to try again. Should the player fail to answer before the horse reaches the jump, the horse will stall before the jump, giving the player time to answer correctly – but the answer must be answered twice. If it is not attempted within a few seconds, the horse will move on past the jump and go.
After a ride is over, the view switches to a screen that shows the player’s progress through the quest. From here, the student may choose another ride, or back up to the menu page and view their statistics. Progress is shown in detail; it’s easy to see what facts the student has mastered, and which still need follow-up work.
The best thing about Math Rider is that, after the student has chosen a skill and general range of facts to work on, all the details about which facts need the most practice is determined by Math Rider. It adapts to the rider’s progress and presents them with the questions they have the highest need to improve, building on previous successes rather than mindlessly drilling facts that they already know well.
Cheyenne is older, and a much stronger math student than when she used Math Rider previously, but, there are still a few of the larger-number facts that trip Cheyenne up. Math Rider has three main “positives” for her; she can see exactly which facts she needs to work on, it has a story and virtual rewards to give her incentive to play, and it has HORSES. Have I mentioned that she’s horse-crazy these days?
The recommended age range for Math Rider is 6-12; we’ve discovered that Chey’s older brother, Chris, still enjoys it – and he’s 13. It’s all going to depend on their interest level and need for practice at the older end of the age range. Cheyenne thinks that a 6-year-old might be a bit young; the time-dependent style might be frustrating to some younger students. But it does adapt to the skill of the user, so what she is seeing – a challenging to-her usage – probably isn’t the same experience that a 6-year-old would have.
For me, the main benefits to Math Rider are:
- Math Rider can be used alongside any other curriculum that we are using.
- The game aspect makes math drill fun, rather than boring – students are much more likely to practice, and be enthusiastic about it, leading to greater retention of what they have learned.
- It requires no time from the parent other than an easy initial set-up, reminding the child to use the program, and checking in and being proud of their accomplishments.
- At its heart, it IS drill, designed to burn those facts into immediate mental answers – and it works.
A seven-day trial of Math Rider is available – it’s a great way to have your whole family try it out. After the trial, the purchase price is $47, which includes free updates for life. One license is sufficient for up to eight users. Math Rider works on both PC and Mac computers; a description of system requirements is available.
Many more reviews of Math Rider are available at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog – check out these and many more homeschool reviews from real homeschool parents and kids!