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Know Your USA Review by Dena Wood

Reviewed inMount Dreoilin
Co. Kildare, Ireland
+353 86 1794731

Know Your USA is a software program designed to teach and test students on the following geographical aspects of the United States: Regions, States, State Capitals, Major Cities, Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes. Each of these topics is further divided into a Study, Teach and Examine section.

In the Study section, a map details the topic of choice. For example, under the topic Mountains, the map highlights the five major mountain ranges: Appalachian, Rocky Mountains, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Alaskan. As you move your curser over each range, the name is spoken. If you click on a range, a dropdown screen gives more detailed information on that range. The same method is used for the other topics. When you study States, the dropdown screen shows the major cities, geographical features, the state map, and basic state facts (population, largest city, time zone, abbreviation, etc).

Once you have become familiar with the Study section on a particular topic, you go to the Teach section. In this section you are quizzed on what you have learned. If you get the answer correct, a dropdown screen displays a green check mark for you to click to move to the next question. If you are incorrect, a red screen and a hint appear on the screen. If your second answer is incorrect, the correct answer is highlighted in blue on the screen, and the program moves on to the next question. This section has a "start" button and a "quick fire" button. Personally, I could never distinguish a difference between the two.

The Examine portion of the program is very similar to the Study section except that the user must type the name of the feature/location highlighted on the map. The program tracks progress so that you can see what you got wrong and where you need to spend additional study time.

The Jigsaw Puzzle was the biggest hit with my children. In this screen you can choose between a US map with state outlines or one without outlines. You are then given a state shape on the right that you must "pick up" with your curser and move to the appropriate spot on the map. (Note: If you're looking for a real challenge, this is VERY difficult without the state outlines!) My 3rd-grade daughter became completely engrossed in this and is still determined to beat her best time of placing all the states in 72 seconds! Personally, I can't think of an easier way to teach the location of the states. The program keeps track of your best time, so you always know what you're trying to beat.

The website states that the program is geared for students in the 5th grade. I used it successfully with my 2nd and 4th grader. We are currently studying US Geography, so they were already pretty familiar with the states. However, this program was a great way to introduce major rivers, mountains, lakes, etc. Though this was not an entertainment-type product, my kids found it enjoyable. If you're looking for game-style program, Know Your USA is not for you.

I found the program to be easily navigated and liked the fact that it allowed various login IDs to track the progress of different students. I also liked the number of topics covered in the software. On the downside, it is occasionally difficult to understand a location name, especially if you happen to move the curser from one to another, quickly. The computer-generated voice runs over itself trying to say both. However, you can easily repeat, and the name is written to the right of the screen as well. I would have liked it if the State dropdown screens were printable. These had the majority of the information we needed for our Geography study, and it would have been nice to print that screen out and add it to our notebooks as we learned about each state.

I'm sure we will continue to use and enjoy this software throughout the years as we learn and review different aspects of US Geography.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2007