Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Barnum Software

On the whole I am a very fortunate mother--I love math and my son loves it too.  He love's learning it, I should say.  He's always ready for something new.  Practicing and reinforcing math skills are another matter.  For a whole semester I let him write his math answers in roman numerals--at least it got him to do the work.  Quarter Mile Math is an effective way to drill foundational math facts, and here's the great part:  Fritz thinks it's a game!   We received the Deluxe version of the Levels 1,2, & 3 Bundle for our review. 

The package describes the software as "math practice."  You'll need to used something else to teach your children, but after the lesson they could use their computer instead of worksheets. There are hundreds of topics and subtopics  to choose from: addition, subraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, estimation, etc.   I could be as specific as just drilling his +8 facts or covering a range (like 0+0 through 20 + 20). 

I decided to use Quarter Mile Math to see what managed to stick in Fritz's head after summer vacation.  Installation was a snap (I didn't even read the instructions, aren't I a stinker?)   Fritz had the choice of being a horse or a race car and ended up switching back and forth throughout the day.   When the race starts, an addition problem flashes on the bottom of the screen.  Once Fritz typed in his answer his car took off and a new question appeared.  With each correct question his car sped up (this program considerately does not "punish" wrong answers by slowing the car down).  For the first few races in a topic the "competition" are computer generated cars, designed to delay take off and drive slowly--in other words, your kids will win.   As  they repeat topics, the other cars will represent their best previous times so they will be competing against themselves and hopefully improving.  If I hadn't chosen "Schnickelfritz" for my son's pseudonym, a fine second choice would have been "Mr. Competitive."

Fritz hasn't had much exposure to computers yet and certainly not to keyboards.  When we started he got rather frustrated because he could shout out the answer quickly, but it took him a while to find what keys to press.  He must not be the only one with this problem because keyboarding  skills are among the available topics--both numbers and letters..  I had him run both the one and two digit  races using the 10 key pad (that's the accountant in me).

Both the Standard and Deluxe versions allow some tracking of your student's progress.  I was able to see which topics Fritz had covered, the number of races, number of right answers and the average of the best times.  It does not provide the total number of questions or a percentage of correct answers so you can't really use this for testing or grading purposes.

The software package advertises that Quarter Mile Math is used at Sylvan Learning Centers nationwide.  It appears they are really reaching out to homeschoolers as well.  There's a special homeschooling section just added to their website with printable progress charts and a forum to connect with other homeschool users.  Today, I also received the first of a new series of emails with Tips & Info geared helping homeschoolers maximize the benefits from the program.

The Standard version of Quarter Mile Math can be purchased on CD as  individual levels ($39.95 each) or bundled levels ($64.95-$89.95).  The Deluxe version is more of a subscription service giving you access to all three levels for $2.95 per month (there are savings for 1 or 2 year subscriptions).  You must have internet access for the Deluxe version,  but dial-up service is sufficient.  Barnum Software as an easy to read table comparing the two versions available here.   

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