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Monday, April 22, 2013

MathRider. A TOS Crew Review...

Ahh, yes...math.

Our very favorite subject in our homeschool.

The learning, the computing, the drilling...It's all just a wonderful, peaceful experience in our home.


So, in the spirit of being REAL, you all already know that we are Not (with a capital "n"--get it?  Hee hee!) math fans over here.  As a matter of fact, with the girls, I've just pretty much adopted the "well-it-has-to-be-done-so-just-suck-it-up-and-do-it" attitude.

Doesn't help with the crying and yelling so much, though.  Mine--or theirs.

It stands to reason, then, that I am continually on the prowl for products, ideas, or curriculum that might make our math lives easier.  Or just take away the tears.

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Enter MathRider, which is a computer-based, "intelligent" math facts game for kids.  (AND it involves horses--more on that later, but it's an exciting thing for us!)

What is MathRider?

"MathRider combines fun math game play with a highly sophisticated question engine that adapts to your child.  The game propels your child to mastery of all four math operations using numbers from 0 to 12 in record time." (from their website)

Essentially, MathRider is a downloaded program that helps my kiddos drill their math facts in a fun and engaging way.  Each child receives a "quest" based on their level of skill and math operation that I set up in the computer.  They may be going to hunt for a magical flower to save their mother from the addition flu, or maybe they are helping to return a valuable gem to the multiplication elves.  Each quest starts out with a story, and then the rider can take off on their quest with their horse, Shadow.

To ride on the quest, the child must simply answer math fact questions.  That's it.  The levels are set to easy, medium, and hard, and only one operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) is asked per quest.  When the child answers the question correctly, Shadow is able to jump over an obstacle.  When the child answers incorrectly, too slow, or not at all, Shadow stops while the correct answer is given to the child.  Shadow moves more quickly the better the child does.

There were thirty problems in each quest section that we undertook, and the faster and more correct the child answers, the more points he or she scores, and the farther along the map they get closer to the end of their quest.
Here is a glimpse of Bug's map.  The red line shows his progress so far...

How Did We Use MathRider?

Simple answer?  Instead of flashcards.

See, my Firefly has been doubly blessed.  Along with her Sensory Processing Disorder, she has a learning disability in math, and some additional processing issues as well.

She also has an intense dislike of flashcards.

However, we do them every day.  It took us over a year for her to learn her multiplication tables.  If we don't do some kind of drilling on a daily basis, she forgets them all over again.  (It's just a math wonderland we live in here, folks!)

When MathRider came along, it was a beautiful and fun way to get rid of the flashcards, but still do the drilling.  And, did I mention that you get to ride a horse (virtually, that is!).

She might hate math, but she loves horses!

So, MathRider was a bribery tool that we pulled out three - four times / week instead of the flashcards.  I would set a timer for 10 - 15 minutes and we would play.

I say "we", because I had to sit with her.  Now, I know that is not the way the game is designed.  For example, my Bug (age 6) was able to use the game independently, once I set up his quest.  In his case, MathRider was a blessed way for him to learn independently for a burst of time while I was available to his sisters.

Firefly, however, is a much different kiddo.  She doesn't like to be timed--with anything, at all!  She had a hard time trying to think of the answer and trying to think of how to coordinate her hands to type the answer in, within the time allotted.  We ended up with her orally telling me the answer, and me typing it in for her each time.

Problem solved.

MathRider is set up so that it can be used with up to eight riders, and includes free software updates for life, for $47.  It is suggested for ages 6-12.  While technically, only my younger two fit the age guidelines, I would use this for my 13 year-old as well.  Anyone who could benefit from math drilling could benefit from this program, and the fact that I would only use one program for all three of my children is wonderful!

What Did I Think?

First of all, for my Bug, this is a great tool.  He is still only learning his simple addition facts, so I expect to use it a bit more later this summer, when he has started to need to memorize some of these math facts to move on.  He can use the game independently, and the game keeps track of his answers and his progress.  As a matter of fact, the feedback piece was the best part of this program for me.

After each ride, a chart like the above is given.  Each question asked has a colored graph line.  The green means that the child has mastered the fact.  The yellow and red show that mastery has not been reached yet--maybe it took longer for the child to answer the question than it did the time before, maybe they missed the correct answer, or maybe they didn't answer at all.  My kids really enjoyed seeing how many "green bars" they could get.

There is also a feedback chart that you can access.  The one below shows Firefly's mastery of the easy addition.  You can see that she has mastered the 0-5 addition facts, evident by all of the green.  
I can promise you that her multiplication table doesn't look like that, lol!

There are just a great deal of incentives for kiddos to keep working on their facts.  Different stories, green bars, mastery percentages--all things that work like gold star stickers in trying to motivate kids.

As a matter of fact, I even got told that "we have time for one more ride, Mommy!  The timer didn't go off yet!"

From my Master Math Hater.

I think we might use this forever!

What Did My Kiddos Think?

"It was fun.  I liked how it helped you speed up on math because the horse kept going faster.  And I like how it showed the little things (stories) once you finished a mission and you were starting a new one."  Bug, age 6

"It was fun, but sometimes I got frustrated with it.  It was fun how it kept going faster the more you got right.  I really like horses, so it was really fun to do.  But as I said, sometimes I got frustrated because it didn't give me enough time."  Firefly, age 10

You can try MathRider out for yourself, if you head over to their website.  There is a free 7 day trial that includes all of the features in the full, paid game.  

Also, you can see what my Crew-mates thought of MathRider:
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