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spacer all reviews > > > middle school software

Excel@ Middle School

Knowledge Adventure

ages 12-16

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

Excel@ Middle School Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

Excel@ Middle School is a comprehensive study program covering 12 subjects with topics appropriately geared for use by middle school students. It contains over 330 interactive lessons in math, language arts, geography, science and history. These are broken down into 12 specific subjects: pre-algebra, algebra 1, earth science, life science, physical science, US history, ancient civilizations, geography, reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary. Each individual theme is subdivided into several specific topics to help direct and focus your study.

Once an item is selected the student is allowed to take an optional diagnostic test to help assess his understanding of the material to be covered. The pretest usually consists of 10 questions. Now you are ready to advance to the 'study' portion of the subject. A brief presentation of key points is given with appropriate examples or maps, etc., to illustrate the point. This portion is usually confined to under 10 small screen pages (in the vocabulary section 25 words are introduced on separate pages). Then you are allowed to 'practice'. Approximately 10 multiple choice questions are asked which utilize information gleaned in the study session. Red Xs (incorrect) and blue checks (correct) give immediate feedback as you make your selection. At any time the student can brush up on information by returning to the study mode. When all subcategories are completed under a topic a review test is given.

Occasional directional voice prompts are used and the optional repetitive background music was not distracting. The home page has a search button which slowly scrolls through an alphabetized index to help locate specific subject-matter.

Excel@ Middle School also allows you to set up lesson plans in advance by clicking on the planner button. This allows one to select a topic of study and drag it over to the calendar. This can be done over a span of weeks if desired. Students can then go to the calendar for that day and open up their individualized lesson plan or go to the calendar to view what has been planned in future days. A progress report automatically tracks scores and progress for each individual, and stores the information for you to review at any time.

The 6 CD ROM set also came with a multimedia encyclopedia CD, a typing CD, and a foreign language CD which has a French or Spanish tutorial. The French lessons took the form of a road race with a variety of game-like exercises-for example a matching game, a fortune teller, a marketplace show and tell. A phrase book is at your disposal to look up words and phrases when you need help. Postcards of your 'trip' are collected in an album. The pace is fast and interesting.

The typing program allows the student to choose between traditional lesson plans or to concentrate on a CETM method. Bored with this? It distinguishes itself with its "Bookshelf" and "Showtime" section. A nice selection of interesting, but thinly disguised educational topics are presented. Choose from a list of topics-at the movies, sports & music, history & politics, etc., to practice your typing skills (often augmented by photos). For example, retype a short paragraph on Babe Ruth while gazing at his photograph or giraffes & their habitat. Of course, there is a "Game" heading filled with mindless fun. Will it be Whackem, Word Search, or Invaders ?

Educational Value
The step-by-step approach is methodical and covers an impressively broad distillation of knowledge. Study, Practice, Test. It imparts the information in small, easy to understand portions (almost like the Cliff Notes of middle school education) designed not to overwhelm the student. The information was accurate (online updates are an option we did not check out) and its format and presentation progress in a logical fashion.

Kid Appeal
Excel@ Middle School is a study program first and foremost so this already scares off most kids. However most lessons seem designed to be completed in 20-30 minutes. They make sense and follow a step-by-step sequence. The pages are attractively presented in an approachable manner. They are designed not to intimidate by filling the screen chock full of printed material. Only a small digestible amount of information is presented with each eyeful.

The typing CD is standard but uses clips of interesting articles from a student-selected range of topics to spice it up and educate during some of its practice sessions. The foreign language CD was actually fun and made to appeal to the middle school mindset -- not too childish nor too stuffy.

Ease of Use / Install
No problems were encountered installing this game on our Windows 98 test machineb but it does take a considerable chunk of time. Allow a minimum of 30-40 minutes. Initially it was not clear to our testers how to load the foreign language CD, and many attempts were made before it was successfully loaded.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
Middle schoolers, their parents, and teachers will find this a useful tool. This well-designed program gives an organized framework to approach a vast array of information and can be utilized both in and out of the classroom for tutoring purposes, to sharpen skills, or to impart new information. Excel@ Middle School is both age appropriate, concise, and thoughtful.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other multisubject middle school software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions of this program.

System Requirements
PC: Windows95/98 Pentium 133 or faster, 30 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 640 x 480 resolution with 256 or more colors, 12x CD-ROM drive, Windows compatible sound card, [optional] 56 Kbps modem/ISP (for Internet features).

Mac: Mac OS 7.6.1 or later, 100 MHz or faster PowerPC, 30 MB hard disk space, 32 MB RAM, 640 x 480 resolution with 256 or more colors, 12x CD-ROM drive, [optional] 56 Kbps modem/ISP (for Internet features).

Reviewed on:

  • PentiumII-266 with 64MB and 24x-CD
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