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The Math Riddler Worksheet Generator CD-roms (Whole Numbers / Fractions / Decimals, Proportions, and Percents / Algebra) Review by Donna Campos

Galaxy of Education
430 W. Upsal Street
Philadelphia, PA 19119

There are four versions of the Math Riddler Worksheet Generators (see titles above), each on an individual CD-ROM. The programs generate various worksheets for practice in an extensive variety of mathematical operations, from addition and subtraction to fractions and algebraic equations. The programs simply allow parents to generate worksheets in support of mathematical education; problems are not completed on the computer, nor do the answers provide step-by-step demonstration. Five hundred riddles included in the programs offer an extra problem-solving element. After answering various equations, students input letters from various answers to reveal an answer to a given riddle. (You may also choose to print out worksheets without riddles.) Each worksheet offers the option of printing a corresponding answer sheet. Worksheet possibilities are unlimited because numbers are chosen randomly, providing endless combinations of mathematical equations and problems. The riddles are numbered; you can specifically request a riddle by inserting the number into the box at the bottom of the generator, or you can have the computer choose one randomly. Spanning ages from kindergarten to high school level, the Math Riddler Worksheet Generators are appropriate for all of the various levels of mathematics.

The Whole Numbers CD-ROM includes sections on Addition (1-digit, 2-digit, 3-digit, 4-digit, and 5-digit problems), Subtraction (1-digit, 2-digit, 3-digit, 4-digit, and 5-digit problems), Multiplication (1-digit, 2-digit, 3-digit, and 4-digit problems), Division (1-digit numbers, 1-digit Divisor, 2-digit Divisor, and 3-digit Divisor), Expanded Notation (Hundreds, Thousands, Ten-thousands), Rounding (Dollars, Tens, Hundreds, Thousands), Estimating (Adding Tens, Adding Hundreds, Adding Thousands, 1-digit Multiplier, 2-digit Multiplier), Number Patterns & Sequence (One Operation, Multiple Operations), Order of Operations, Telling Time, Money, and Word Problems (Easy, Harder, Multi-step).

The Fractions CD-ROM includes sections on Fraction Pies, Fractions on a Line, Equivalent Fractions, Comparing Fractions (this section has no Riddle option), Reducing Fractions (Reducing Fractions, Prime Factors, Reducing with Greatest Common Factor), Improper Fractions (Improper Fractions, Improper Fractions and Reducing), Add & Subtract Like Fractions (Add & Subtract Like Fractions, Subtracting Like Fractions), Adding Fractions & LCM (Lease Common Multiple-LCM, Adding Different Fractions, Adding Mixed Numbers), Subtracting Fractions (Subtracting Different Fractions, Subtracting Mixed Numbers), Multiplying Fractions (Multiplying Simple Fractions, Multiplying Mixed Numbers), Dividing Fractions (Dividing Simple Fractions, Dividing Mixed Numbers), and Word Problems.

The Decimals, Ratios and Proportions, and Percents CD-ROM includes sections on Understanding Decimals, Comparing Decimals, Multiplying & Dividing by Tens, Rounding Decimals (Nearest Whole, Nearest Tenth, Nearest Hundredth, Nearest Thousandth), Adding Decimals, Subtracting Decimals, Multiplying Decimals (1-digit Multiplier, 2-digit Multiplier, 3-digit Multiplier), Dividing Decimals (1-digit Divisor, 2-digit Divisor, 3-digit Divisor), Decimal Word Problems (Decimal Word Problems, Harder Word Problems, Multi-Step Word Problems), Ratios & Proportions (Direct Proportions, Inverse Variation, Both), Percents (Fractions to Decimals, Decimals to Percents, Harder Percents), and Percent Word Problems. Some of the print in the word problems becomes quite small, an inherent problem in keeping the problems to a one-page format.

The Algebra CD covers 26 topics, including Powers/Exponents, Operations with Powers, Scientific Notation, Metric Notation, Scientific Operations, Metric Operations, Order of Operations, Operations with Parentheses, Negative Numbers, Factors, Algebraic Properties, Translating to Algebra, More Translating, Simplifying Expressions, More Simplifying, 1-Step Equations, 2-Step Equations, Unknown on Both Sides, Equations with Parentheses, Equations with Fractions or Decimals, 1-Step Inequalities, 2-Step Inequalities, Slopes of Lines, Linear Equations, More Linear Equations, and Algebra Word Problems.

The riddles are identical on the four CDs and therefore could potentially come up again when you have the computer choose one at random. If the child remembers the riddle, he or she could "cheat" by choosing answers based on the riddle response, but that same aspect could allow a student to be guided to correct answers when unsure, building confidence. If you are using a "show your work" approach, this shouldn't be a problem. (And, of course, you have the option of avoiding the riddle.) Overall, the number of possible worksheets is mind boggling, as are the many specific target areas. Parents are able to focus on finer areas of necessary practice by having the areas broken down specifically. The problems are always randomly generated, assuring different problems every single time. If a student has a deficit in a particular area, worksheets may be practiced without a riddle for as many times as necessary. Then you could use the riddle worksheet as a celebration of mastery. Some of the riddles will be inappropriate for some age groups, too vague, or unacceptable in some households, but this problem is easily remedied as parents need only to generate another worksheet. (I can't imagine anyone possibly going through all 500 riddles.) We did not find any inappropriate for our Christian household, although some were too vague for our fourth grader and others were simply too ridiculous for our eleventh grader. Parents will recall many of the riddles from childhood; several brought a smile to my face. The excitement the entire concept held for my fourth grader was wonderful as he excitedly completed problems in order to solve the riddle. The downside will be that as the riddle nears completion, many children will skip the final problems as they guess the end of the riddle. I would encourage parents to require the child to complete all of the problems before piecing together the riddle answers.

I was disappointed that the "Show Answers" option displayed the answers in the same black color. A different color would have helped tremendously. Also, because the 500 numbered riddles are the same for all four programs, a chart or some other method of recording which riddles have been used is a necessity if you plan to use the generator consistently. For instance, if you choose Riddle #341 for a worksheet on Metric Notation (Algebra CD) and then choose it again for a worksheet on Dividing Decimals (Decimals, Ratios and Proportions, and Percents CD), the riddles will be identical, even though the various math problems will be different and randomly generated each time. There is no riddle number on the printed worksheet after printing, so you will want to make a note of the riddle number somewhere on the page and keep track of the ones you've used in order to avoid repeats. As noted previously, the program keeps the worksheets to one page, so some of the print becomes incredibly small, particularly in the word problems on riddle pages.

Various homeschool styles will find use for the Math Riddler Worksheet Generators, and they are ideal for larger families with multiple children, as parents can target specific areas for different children. The riddles offer a fun aspect to the traditional worksheet. Families that dislike worksheets will not find much enjoyment in the Math Riddler Worksheet Generator. Yet, for those not using a textbook-style math curriculum (loaded with page after page of problems), this product fills a gap by providing necessary practice. We loved the benefit of printing worksheets to address specific needs for each of our children. And the riddles spurred our children on to completion and took away the objections they sometimes have toward math worksheets. I didn't appreciate having to design a method to track which riddles we had used. I wish the program offered something to fill that aspect of using the generator, but we were able to draw out different riddles for different areas and had no overlap. The Math Riddler Worksheet Generators include a broad range of mathematical levels, are incredibly easy to use, and offer excellent practice for students who need to work a few more problems in a given area of mathematics. The giggles brought on by some of the riddles help take the sting out of what can otherwise be a tedious part of learning.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2008