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The Clue Finders Math Adventures, Ages 9-12 Review by Melissa Theberge and Stacy RochaThe Learning Company
2217 Armada Way
San Mateo, CA 94404
For a computer game to become a part of our family educational repertoire, it must be just that--educational. The Learning Company is well known in our home for providing fun computer games on CD-ROM for all ages, and the Clue-Finders Reading Adventures is no exception. The game opens with four Clue-Finder kids being transported to another world. Two are held prisoner, and the other two must find an amulet that will release their friends from an evil sorceress and save the mythical place called Millenia. With this adventurous premise, players are then sent on a mission of gathering gems, solving puzzles, and moving through various levels as they approach their ultimate goal. All the games target reading and language art skills, which is where the learning comes in. Specific skill areas include spelling, synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, general vocabulary, parts of speech, analogies, sequencing, categorizing, reading comprehension, using context clues, logical reasoning, and much more.
There are two CD-ROMs enclosed with the game, one that focuses on the game itself and one that provides a "Personalized Learning Center." This feature provides skill tracking information for every child who plays the games, a reward center where achievement certificates can be printed, supplemental printable worksheets by skill area, and entire printable workbooks on the same subjects. This is particularly valuable if the program is being used as part of a language arts curriculum.
The program uses what it calls A.D.A.P.T. Learning Technology, which personalizes skill levels for children by assessing what their starting skill level is and selecting activities that will challenge them appropriately. Different levels offer room to grow. To test this out, I signed in under two names. For my first identity, I was a beginner starting at skill level 1 in every area. I saw that the game led me through each level, becoming slightly more difficult at each stage. For my second identity, I took a skill assessment test. The computer determined my starting level based on how I scored in each area. This feature of the game is ideal for children who are strong in one area but weak in another.
I am not inclined to play computer games. If I can't quickly figure out how to play a game, I lose interest. My 11-year-old, who fits perfectly into the target age range for this product, would write a brief and glowing review of this product within minutes, and it would read: "It is fun, educational, and easy to figure out how to play." I agree with the first two at least. I did have fun playing, and I did feel like the skill levels were challenging and progressively more difficult. But I did not have an especially easy time figuring out what level I was working on, which clues I still needed to find, and how close I was to reaching my goal. Even so, I am confident in reporting that the game is very accessible to the target age group, assuming even minimal computer game experience. Because the copyright date is 1999, I believe it is fair to say that the graphics and the realistic nature of the game are lacking in comparison to newer software options. However, The Learning Company is a trusted name in childhood educational games, and my children found this one to be as enjoyable as they had hoped, even without the more modern bells and whistles we've become accustomed to with other products.
My kids love any kind of electronic games, so I was very excited to review The Clue Finders Math Adventures. Not only would it be a game they could have fun playing, but they would learn from it as well. This two-disc CD-ROM boosts 15 interactive games at 10 different levels. Plus, it has the A.D.A.P.T. Learning Technology that "continually adjusts the program to match your child's growing abilities." Disc one has the installation for the game, while disc two has the personalized learning center.
Treasures have been stolen from a village high in the Himalayas. Your children will help the Clue Finders find the missing treasures by playing math games. For each game completed correctly, the user will get a clue. After receiving the clue, the user goes to the logic cube to start eliminating possibilities. The three-sided logic cube has the suspects on one side, locations on another, and the objects on the last side. If the clue says, "The suspects wear glasses," the user simply clicks on the suspects who do not where glasses to remove them from the cube. Once the user has narrowed it down to a suspect, an object, and a location, he hits the accuse button. If the answer is correct, the stolen treasure is returned to the treasure room.
The skills covered are number computation, multiplication and division, fractions and decimals, graphs and tables, and early geometry. Your children will practice these skills as they visit different places throughout the village. They might stop at the village store and work on multiplication problems. The store clerk needs help placing orders. Your children will help her by answering story problems and then putting the correct amount of merchandise on the shelves. An example of one of the story problems is "The tailor needs buttons for five coats she is making. Each coat uses 6 buttons. Show how many total buttons she needs to finish all the coats." At the library, your children will work on graphing skills.
Disc two allows you to track your children's progress with the Progress Checker. This shows how well your children are doing on all of the skills being covered. It also allows you to print out personalized workbooks. You can choose to print out activities or workbooks according to the skills they need to work on.
Overall, I thought this was a great computer game. My 9-year-old daughter loves it and begs to play it every day. To quote her, "It teaches me a lot of stuff in a fun way. This is what makes math fun." The only thing I didn't like about this game was the graphics. They seemed grainy, and some of the figures on the logic cube were hard to make out. The Clue Finders Math Adventures would make a great supplement to any math program. If your children love to play on the computer like mine do, I'm sure they would love this game.