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Wonder Number Learning System Review by Cindy West

Melbourne Tom Brown
Wonder Number Learning System
1825 Gaviota Court
Simi Valley, CA 93065

This is such a unique and wonderful product! My family and I have enjoyed using it during math lessons and have even made it part of some family game nights. So what is it? Honestly, it's going to be very hard to describe in words, but I'll do my best. You almost have to see it to understand when I say it's a teaching board and a game board in one.

Picture a giant 100s chart and place it on a game board. Think about all the things you may have used a 100's chart to teach during math time--counting, jump-counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, number patterns, and square numbers. Well, this game board teaches all that and more using unique games and math lessons.

What comes with the Wonder Number Learning System? It includes a large game board, two smaller game boards, two posters of the 100s board, a spinner, a reproducible copy of the 100s board, four sets of colored poker chips, four game board viewers, and, of course, a teacher's guide/game instruction guide. The back of the teacher's guide even includes some reproducible math fact pages. Best of all, though, the system includes an instructional DVD for you and your children!

Wonder Number includes so many teaching and playing opportunities that it's impossible to determine an appropriate age limit. It can be used with very young children to help them simply count to 100. It can be used with elementary students to teach multiplication facts and number patterns. Older students will learn prime numbers, fractions, and composite numbers. Even this homeschooling mom brushed up on a few of her rusty skills!

What impressed me most was the very beginning game called "5 in a Row," which had my third grader looking for (and finding) prime numbers and square numbers, among other things, in order to place five chips in a row on the board. The creators of the game have created the board with color-coded hints as to which numbers are primes, squares, various multiples, and more. It is such a great tool for visually recognizing the numbers! Just like any other visual reminder, if your child plays the games enough, he or she will be very likely to remember many, many math facts.

Even though I've used a 100s board many times in my teaching career, I was surprised at the numerous teaching possibilities this game/teaching tool offers. And, better yet, how fun it is! All in all, there are four main game choices and 15 teaching lessons. Have you ever heard of the Goldbach's Conjecture mathematical theory? Me either. Not only will you learn about the theory, you will easily be able to put it into practice after just a brief lesson in the teacher's guide. And no need to worry, there's an answer key just in case you need it!

I highly recommend this teaching tool and board game to any homeschool with children younger than high school. For what it's worth, I imagine most high school students could benefit from some of the lessons, too.

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2008

The Wonder Number Learning System is a boxed board game designed to reinforce math concepts from basic counting to simplifying fractions. The components are stored in a sturdy cardboard box, and the game board folds into fourths to rest easily in the storage box. Additional components include a game spinner, 100 playing chips in four colors (red, yellow, green, blue), two sturdy mini game boards, a blackline master, a full-color poster of the game board, four viewers (used to highlight a particular number and the properties shown in the number square), a Teaching Guide with 16 lessons, and an instructional DVD (which introduces the system, presents the lessons, and explains the four different games that can be played). The Teaching Guide is a 44-page staple-bound book that includes 16 lessons, directions for the games, practice worksheets (identical to those on the website), and a Glossary of math terms. The four games are Five in a Row (similar to Sequence), Countdown, Quadrants, and Squares. No additional materials are required for most of the games, but one does call for pencil and paper to track progression. Students will need standard math supplies when using the lessons to solve typical mathematical computations. The lessons use the game board to teach Basic Counting, Comparison, Addition with single digit, Addition with double digit, Subtraction with single digit, Subtraction with double digit, Multiples and Factors, Patterning, Multiplication, Squares, Prime and Composites, Division with no remainder, Division with remainder, Simplifying Fractions, Lowest Common Denominator, and Goldbach’s Conjecture. Suitable for teaching Pre-K to high school students in the homeschool setting or in the classroom, the Wonder Number System introduces math ideas in a unique visual way.

After developing it in the 1970s, the designers of the Wonder Number Learning System used it successfully in classrooms for many years. The heart of the program is a 100s chart that uses color pattern recognition, number sense, and concreted illustrations of abstract ideas to help children understand math concepts. Numbers one through one hundred are presented on the board in a traditional 100s chart format, with even numbers identified by a blue 2. Prime numbers are identified with a circle around the number, while square numbers are identified with a square that is the same color as the square root. The factors for each number are listed in pairs and further clarified by specific color. For example, the number 36 happens to have a heavily noted number square that includes a purple square around the number noting its square root as the purple number 6. Across the top and bottom of the square are all the numbers between 1 and 10 that are factors of 36 (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 9). The 2 and 3 are circled (denoting prime numbers), and the 1, 4, and 9 are in squares (denoting that they are square numbers). Adjacent to each of the factors is the other half of the factor pair (for instance, a 4 is above the factor 9 because 4 times 9 equals 36). All of this information is included in a 2” x 2” square on the game board! In comparison, the number 37 includes a circle around the number to denote it as prime, and the numbers 1 and 37 are given as the only factors. Every number from one through 100 is presented in this manner, thereby supplying multiplication and division information simultaneously. The mini boards are identical to the game board, only smaller. The clarifying colors are much appreciated when using the smaller boards, as numbers are still legible but are more difficult to see.

The games are incredibly simple, allowing any age to play. But they also leave room for strategy. The Five in a Row game is recommended first, and it can be adjusted to three or four in a row, if necessary. The child spins the spinner and places a chip on the board accordingly, as they attempt to get five chips in a row. Older children will learn that an odd number is any number without a blue two in the box and that a prime number has only itself and one other number in the box. Younger students need only to match the color or shape they have spun to a number of the same on the board. The Countdown game reinforces subtraction as players count down from 500. (A “counting up” version may be played in order to review addition.) One to four players may play simultaneously, with each player using paper to track the continuous mathematical computation as they play. The goal is to count down from 500 to 1 in the fewest number of spins. To play Quadrants, each player uses one quadrant of the game board. (Any unused quadrant is blocked out with chips.) The goal is to be the first player to fill up your quadrant.) In Squares, players attempt to make a square by placing chips at four corners of a square. The first person to make any size square wins.

The lessons are short and to the point, offering a clear presentation of the topic. Parents are able to expand on the concepts presented according to the needs and abilities of their students. The Basic Counting lesson includes skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s and an explanation of the numbers one through ten for greater understanding of their use later. The color-coordinated numbers along the top and bottom of each number square are an incredibly helpful guide for students of all ages as they learn their math facts. The Comparison lesson teaches odd and even, place value, and less than/greater than. The chip trading procedure used in this lesson is a great way to teach place value, especially for students having difficulty grasping the concept. By demonstrating a full set of ten chips and then trading them for a single chip of a different color to represent all ten previous chips, students can see ones and tens visually. Our children loved this manipulative presentation. Having a child repeatedly manipulate chips and numbers with this method would greatly increase his understanding, and even his enjoyment, of this concept. The Wonder Number Board is essentially a color-coded times table chart, and the Multiplication lesson provides several ways to visualize problems and offer a concrete answer. Our older children particularly understood the Primes and Composites lesson; the instructor on the DVD utilizes an array to provide a visual representation of each number. The Division, Fractions, and Lowest Common Denominator lessons provide visual evidence of how the operations work and provide the characteristics represented in each number box as they are used to reduce fractions and find the Lowest Common Denominator. On the DVD, an experienced teacher presents the actual lessons, while a mom and kids demonstrate the games.

I would love to see a supplemental package offered, with clear chips and a simplified 100s chart for use during the single-digit Addition lesson, which involves placing chips in a combination of colors to represent the various ways to present a number sentence. Our nine-year-old was asking what special things the numbers underneath the chips meant or did. Having a printable, simplified chart for this lesson would have alleviated his frustration. Also, the Multiplication concepts would be much more easily presented if translucent chips were used, as they would highlight the various numbers without covering them. The available worksheets (in both the Teaching Guide and on the website) were adequate, but as only ten sheets are available, they were not impressive. Only the Goldbach’s Conjecture worksheet held any real value as it provided an activity not easily found elsewhere. As this product is a supplemental tool for use with a mathematics curriculum, the absence of additional worksheets is not a deterrent. The Teaching Guide was printed in vivid color, but the use of yellow as a background color for the lesson titles made them very difficult to read. Finally, I do wish money concepts had been combined with the fractions lesson, but inventive teachers will be able to incorporate that aspect.

The Wonder Number Learning System is an incredibly versatile tool. It lends itself to various age ranges and many, many years of use. The components are durable and brightly colored. This product truly places the fun back into learning the fundamentals of mathematics.

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