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spacer all reviews >>> math software

School House Rock! 1st - 4th Grade Math Essentials

Creative Wonders

Ages 6 to 10

Educational Value - 4.5 Kid Appeal - 4.2 Ease of Use - 3.9

School House Rock! Math Essentials Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

This two disk program offers abundant opportunity for young students to develop and practice multiple levels of math skills in cleverly designed challenges. Familiar School House Rock! characters lead the user through a myriad of games and puzzles that not only highlight math basics, but strengthen and test problem-solving and strategic-thinking abilities as well.

The first of the two disks introduces the student to Lucky Seven Sampson, a self-confident rabbit who wants to reunite the seven members of the Funky Numberland Band and venture forth to seek fame and fortune. His friends are scattered about the countryside, happily engaging in various math activities. They will join him only when they have been challenged and beaten at their games. Examples of these games include a set identification activity, where the user must sort zoo animals based on their inclusion in sets with unique characteristics, and a skating game, in which the path a skater follows is planned by correctly sequencing directional moves. Once the seven musicians have been bettered, the user is further invited to travel with the Band, and join them in tackling the ultimate challenge, the "Road to Fame Game."

The second disk consists of Lucky's Math Arcade. Set up to resemble a video arcade room, the user simply chooses one of seven games, and the fun begins. For the most part these games are familiar activities, with interesting and challenging twists. For example, the concentration game requires matching of number values. At the beginning level this is fairly straightforward, "1+1" would, for example, match "2", however at the higher levels it becomes quite challenging, with "54/6" matching "45/5" and "-3-4" matching "7-14".

Educational Value
School House Rock! Math Essentials involves the young student in math activities at every turn. Multiple levels of difficulty make it possible to grow with the program, advancing from simple addition and subtraction, to complex multiplication, division and fractions. Unlike a basic drill program, School House Rock! Math Essentials requires problem solving and strategic-thinking skills. In many cases there are a number of answers that are somewhat correct, but only one exact solution. This requires advance planning, and precise attention to directions, important learning skills, especially in an area of study such as mathematics.

Kid Appeal
Satisfaction with the Math Rock section of the program (Disk 1) appeared to be directly linked to the ability level attempted by each of our child-reviewers. The simpler levels were enjoyed by all. However, as the level increased many of the activities begin to lack focus and became confusing to students within the targeted age-range. Chance became an issue, frustrating children who knew the correct answers but were unable to demonstrate their knowledge due to uncontrollable variables. Students were further disillusioned by the occasional slowness of the program.

Lucky's Arcade was more universally well-received. Students within and beyond the specified age-range enjoyed the fun, fast-paced games, and were in every instance able to find appropriately challenging levels.

Ease of Install / Use
Although the program itself installed easily on both Macintosh and PC platforms, our reviewers on both machines reported minor difficulties with disk 1. PC users noted that the program ran quite slowly at times, video broke-up, and script errors occasionally caused the program to shut down. One Mac user was unable to use the disk post-installation, receiving an error message that claimed that there was not enough memory to run the program. Upon further investigation it appeared that there was, indeed, plenty of memory available. Disk 2 ran without difficulty on our test machines.

Much of the program is right on target and enjoyable, however, some is extremely difficult to use and caused much frustration among our child reviewers. One parent commented that "My 15 year-old Honors Algebra II high-school student and I weren't able to follow some of the sequences in the Figure Eight Skating section. It's hard to imagine that an average fourth-grader could."

Best for... / Bottom-Line
This multi-level mathematics program, although not without its flaws, provides fun-filled opportunities for the young student to experience mathematics in interesting, somewhat real-world settings.

See the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Math software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, 486/66 or faster cpu, 16 MB hard drive space, 8 MB RAM, 256 color monitor, 2X or faster CD-ROM, Windows compatible sound board

Mac: System 7.1 or higher, 68040 processor or PowerPC cpu, 16 MB hard drive space, 8 MB RAM, 640x480 256 color display, 2X or faster CD-ROM

Reviewed on:

  • PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
  • Pentium166 with 24MB and 12XCD
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