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The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure is an intriguing program that takes an unusual approach to mathematics. Rather than tackling a specific area of mathematics, like addition, fractions, or algebra, this program goes after a collection of potentially intriguing number concepts. Concepts ranging from prime numbers to square roots, to Fibonacci numbers. And it does it in a way that just might capture the interest of some who would otherwise seem immune to the mystery of numbers.
After signing in, the user is greated by Robert, a young fellow in pajamas who doesn't like math. In fact, math gives him nightmares. The Number Devil appears in the opening scene's Math Class nightmare, and he becomes Robert's - and the user's - guide through a sequence of ten nights' stories designed to change nightmares to dreams. Each night introduces a new or related number concept and concludes with a related video arcade-style game. Stories (and lessons) include: the concept of zero, prime numbers, squares, division, fractions, roots, triangle numbers, Fibonacci numbers, factorials, infinity, sums of infinite series, and the number Phi (of Da Vinci Code fame).
The Number Devil doesn't cover the material it presents in an exhaustive fashion, nor are there the endless repetitive drills found in many math programs. Instead, this program attempts to actually introduce and teach the included concepts -- and it does a reasonably good job of doing so. In fact, several of our parent reviewers, in working through the program with their children, noted that they themselves ended up with a better understanding of some of the concepts. And our teacher reviewer remarked that she might utilize some of the introductory concepts in her math class. But beware: even though the program claims it is suitable for students 8 and up, some ideas may be difficult for students that young to grasp without help.
Number Devil successfully takes what could be very dry subject material - the property of numbers - and turns it into something with more than passing kid appeal. In fact, our 13 year-old girl tester found the program to be to her liking, after expressing an initial lack of enthusiasm for the prospect of reviewing a math program. The Devil is a likable fellow, and not too pedantic for most kids. Robert, however, is another story, For some reason, the program's authors decided it would be nice to give him a bit of a speech impediment. Regardless, the balance between showing neat tricks and number relationships, with short practice sessions and related arcade-style games, is just about right.
Number Devil installed without difficulty on our test machine. However, when launched, the program popped open a Windows dialog box informing us that it would run faster if we reconfigured the computer to 800x600 resolution with 16bit color. Since no explanation was given on how to do this, and because we knew that this choice would be a non-native (i.e. bad) resolution for our flat panel display, we took no action and simply clicked on the OK button. Unfortunately, this warning box opened every time we ran the program. Other than that problem, program operation and navigation is generally intuitive.
Number Devil is best-suited for 8-15 year-olds with at least some interest in math. The user doesn't have to be good at math, or even know much math -- but needs at least some interest in the topic to take to this program. It can be used at home, or in school.
PC: Windows 98/ME/XP, Pentium 233 or faster cpu, 100 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, 12X or faster CD-ROM, sound card .return to top of page
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