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Math Galaxy: Fractions Fun Review by Dawn Oaks

Galaxy of Education
430 W. Upsal St.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
http://www.mathgalaxy.com/

The old adage of "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover" was my reproof as I began this review of Math Galaxy: Fractions Fun. Upon first glance, this software package for older elementary students appears very simple and I was concerned about whether it would keep my children's attention. The program is in color, but there are no sound effects at all. Would this keep their interest when they are so used to so many other more polished and entertaining applications?

Those first impressions were all wrong. As I explored each area of the program, I became more and more impressed with the mathematical challenges it presented. Fractions Fun has areas to practice equivalent fractions, reducing fractions, like fractions, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Our only disappointment was that a student already has to have a grasp of how to work with mixed denominators. It was too challenging for our fifth grader that is working on adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers that have a common denominator.

The program has eight additional areas for students to explore and reinforce their skills in what would typically be covered in most math curriculums. These areas include word problems, length, area, volume, pictographs, bar graphs, and probability. The problems in some of these areas actually can challenge the user to the point of using paper and pencil next to the computer to help with computations.

Each of the various areas that your child can work in has several nice functions. The first option is how the computer program reviews the concept with the student before they start working problems of their own. Once they begin working problems themselves, there is an option for them to work the problems step-by-step or typing in the answer only. With the step-by-step function, our children were able to truly use the Math Galaxy application as another "math book" to help our children better grasp concepts that were difficult for them. As the computer program walks them through the problems, there is a heavy use of visual demonstrations and cues that help them to "see" how it works and to get a visual picture of the concept. The "answer only" option allowed us to use this as drill practice on reinforcing concepts. In place of using daily practice sheets or fact sheets, we were able to have our children use Fractions Fun as a fun warm-up before their actual math lesson. Each correct answer rewards the student with a robot. The robots are accumulated throughout all the various sections of the application that the students can later use in the games area. Games include Word Jumbles, Bridge the Swamp, Riddles, and Labyrinth. Unfortunately, robot lives can not be stored under a user sign on and used on another day. Once the application is shut down all robot lives are lost. So moms, make sure to budget time for your student to use their robots or some of the fun of the program will be lost.

I do highly recommend Math Galaxy: Fractions Fun for those that would like additional resources to supplement their math curriculum, as a tool to present a difficult curriculum in a different way, and as drill practice. If your children will be taking Standard Tests that will be reported to your school district, Whole Numbers Fun is also an excellent way to review all of these concepts in a fun way before testing begins.

The operating requirement for Math Galaxy products is a PC with Windows 98 or later. We installed the software on both a Windows XP system and a Windows Vista 64-bit system and did not run into any installation issues.

Product review by Dawn Oaks, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2009

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