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Mathville First Grade, Second Grade and Middle School CD-ROMs Review by Dr. Anne Margaret WrightCourseware Solutions Inc.
37 Lascelles Blvd.
Toronto, ON M5P 2C9
My kids love "playing" on the computer! We have always used educational software to help the kids learn a variety of skills, especially for math where repetition and review are critical to long-term understanding. I was excited to review three levels of Mathville (First Grade, Second Grade and Middle School; $49.95 each) from Courseware Solutions, Inc. The First Grade and Second Grade programs have a similar format with a main page where students can choose from a variety of activities that each practice a different math skill. Each activity uses a different type of game, such as bowling a ball into the right number of bowling pins for counting, choosing shapes that match a pattern, sorting shapes, estimating the number of bugs, etc. The format is fairly simple, but it held my kids' attention and they enjoyed playing the programs. The program automatically moves the child up to the next level as they progress through the exercises, but does not save that information on the next turn. General directions for each activity are given orally at the start, but often specific information for an exercise is written, such as "Hit SIX with the ball", so the student may need help with the directions if he is not able to read independently yet. Guidance is offered orally or in writing if the student misses the question to help them find the correct answer. The activities seemed appropriate for the grade-levels and offered a nice variety of topics. For each correct answer, the student is rewarded with praise, sounds and a colorful star. On Grade 2, the child has to click the correct number of coins after each activity to collect their money prize, which further reinforces money skills. The programs come with several worksheets that can be printed out for additional practice, and a nice worksheet generator is available for each program online. There are also charts online about which skills are covered in each program and each activity. A report is available to view or print that shows what skills the student worked on and how they did. My kids loved the activities, although they had trouble figuring out what was required on several exercises and needed me to read the instructions for each problem. Overall, the First Grade and Second Grade programs were comprehensive, interesting and did a nice job of practicing different math skills.
Our favorite level, though, was the Middle School Mathville program, which uses a very creative interface to help students work through a wide range of math problems. The student chooses the character of Maryann or Max (both cats) and guides their character through a series of "real life" activities. The student has to figure out what to do to balance different things, such as needing to go to the Workplace to earn money (by completing different jobs of the student's choosing), buying groceries and clothes, etc. Each activity requires the student to solve grade-appropriate math problems to achieve their goal. If they don't balance the competing needs, such as if they buy too many clothes and no groceries, or don't earn enough pay to buy what they need, then the game ends and they have to start over. The scope of skills and the clever ways of having the student solve "real life" problems was impressive. We loved the overall theme, the types of problems, the colorful and fun interface, the reports that showed what had been practiced, and the great worksheet generator! Mathville Middle School will help answer the age-old question about math, "When am I ever going to use this?" because all of the problems are set in real situations and show the applicability of the various skills. It also forces the student to think through the problem, rather than just plug numbers into a formula. We thought this was a creative and comprehensive program that would make math time fun for middle school students!