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Math Quest Review by Dena WoodHighsmith
PO Box 900
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0900
In Math Quest: An Adventure Game Focusing on Math Problem-Solving Techniques, students work in teams and race against opposing teams as they solve problems, allowing them to move from one mathematical "world" to another. In each world they learn one of six problem-solving strategies. As they advance in the game, they gain powers and meet obstacles. The team with the most riches at the end of the game wins. Math Quest includes an extensive Instructor's Guide, a Student Adventure Guide for each student that offers a brief overview of the program and the problem-solving strategies, a heavy-duty Six Math Strategies poster, and a Math Lands poster used to track progress.
At the beginning of the game, team members choose supplies from a supply list. Each member has 500 gold pieces to spend on supplies, such as a gondola, protractor, Whatchamacallit, or decimal point. These items come into play as the teams receive Fate Cards. Certain supplies act as defenses against specific Fate Cards. For example, if you draw the Captain Ocho card, you will be sent back 30 dots unless your team has a Whatchamacallit.
Once all the initial preparations are in place, the actual lessons begin. Math Quest is created for grades 4-7, and each problem-solving technique includes a scripted lesson for three levels. Level A is geared to grades 4-5, Level B for grades 5-6, and Level C for grades 6-7. You can choose the script that best fits your groups' abilities. Each lesson is designed to take about 20 minutes. The lessons are well-scripted and clear and cover the following problem-solving strategies: Guess and Check, Look for a Pattern, Draw a Picture, Work Backwards, Make a Table or Chart, and Act It Out. In each lesson, one of the following steps of the process is completed: the strategy is introduced and worked through with the class. Practice problems are then handed out for the teams to work through. Students explain orally to one another how they solved the problem and then score themselves on a rubric. Finally, they create original problems for teammates to solve and solve the problems their teammates have created. Spending 20 minutes daily, you can work through the process for each strategy over a period of 3-4 days. The Instructor's Guide also includes additional problems for further practice as well as an answer key.
During the lessons, the teacher awards Travel Dots for various accomplishments, such as completing problems assigned as homework, creating an original math problem for another student to solve, or solving a problem created by another student. These Travel Dots move the teams from one land to another on the Math Lands poster. The teacher can adjust how long the game will take by adjusting the number of Travel Dots earned for each achievement.
As students progress through seven levels of power (Problem Solvers, Mathemagicians, Calculatricians, Euclidians, Geomagicians, Newtonians, and Einsteinians), they gain different character traits and abilities and become increasingly powerful. For instance, Newtonians are described as "suave, Old World-types, sophisticated and extremely cultured. Esteemed for their originality and intense powers of concentration, Newtonians are notorious calendar collectors and great explorers of diamond mines. They have such nice manners that they are often invited to parties."
This program is set up for classroom learning. It sells for $64.95 and comes with 35 Student Guides as well as the Instructor's Guide and posters. Though students do gain "powers" at various levels, I didn't notice anything dealing with wizards or the like. Dinosaurland does have a skulls-and-bones picture on the poster, and there is also a dragon. Otherwise, the lands depict mostly silly-looking characters playing sports, riding a carousel, etc.
Personally, I liked the program, but it would probably be overkill for most individual homeschoolers. I can see it being used effectively as part of a math co-op--especially if one strategy was covered in full at each meeting. The scripted lessons are excellent, and I am impressed with the way the problem-solving strategies are explained. I also appreciate that students are asked to further their understanding by both explaining the process orally and creating problems of their own. The learning portion of the program is very well done, and I'm sure the quest portion will appeal to students. If you are looking for a math activity to do in a group setting, this could be exactly what you need. You could even use it with a variety of ages by dividing the teams by age and using the appropriate scripted lesson for each age group.
I would really like to see this same kind of program in a more "toned down" version for individual homeschool families--something that wouldn't require so much set-up and preparation and that could be done without teams.