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Math Missions: The Race to Spectacle City Arcade opens with our guide, Aida Lott, telling us that Spectacle City is in trouble and needs our help. It seems that the city is losing money, because none of the city's clerks are good at math. As a result, the city's Arcade is closed, and we won't get to play there until we help all the clerks with their problems. Good thing this is a Math program, not a Social Studies program.
At this point, the user is left alone at an intersection on an animated street, and left to point and click on various storefronts until activities and puzzled clerks are found. Activities ranged from sorting animals by their physical characteristics (spots, legs, colors), to measuring the length of fruits, to weighing combinations of seafood.
Math Missions: The Race to Spectacle City Arcade covers a number of key math concepts for early learners, ranging from counting and number association, thru addition and subtraction, to time and measurement. Unfortunately, it covers these topics in a passing, non-linear fashion; no subject is explained or practiced in-depth. As a result, the educactional value is focused on practicing what the student already knows, rather than teaching what s/he doesn't know.
Math Missions: The Race to Spectacle City Arcade contains a collection of animated educationally-oriented activities. Our young testers found some of them fun, others not-so fun, varying from child to child. The program's plot -- to help the city's clerks with their math problems, and thereby allow the arcade to open -- was lost on younger users, and only marginally motivating for older users. The good news is that the arcade games, once earned by a diligent user, are of some educational value themselves.
The program installs (and uninstalls) easily. After installing, users are prompted to enter their names, then select a difficulty level. We found program navigation to be consistent, if somewhat non-intuitive. For example, in some areas of the program the user has to click on the word 'Go' to enter an answer, in other areas, the enter key is sufficient. Another problem all of our testers remarked on, was the confusion produced by oral instructions telling the user to use "... the directory in @Pet to see what other places you still need to go". We were never clear on exactly how to interpret the map that seemed to be the directory.
This program is best suited for children who already have some familiarity with basic math concepts, and with using a computer mouse and keyboard. Non-readers will do better in the presence of a care-giver.
PC: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium II 266 MHz or faster cpu, 175 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, 256-color display, 8X or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card, .return to top of page
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