Math is the hidden secret to understanding the world | Roger Antonsen
Math is the hidden secret to understanding the world | Roger Antonsen

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At long last, an answer to the familiar question, “Why do I need to learn this stuff?” As the title suggests, Math for the Real World introduces children to real-world situations in which math skills are essential requirements, and does so in a fun, non-threatening manner that kids (and even adults) will applaud.

The theme is simple and appealing. Become a roadie, travelling the countryside with a hot new rock band. Their goal is to make a full, ten-scene video that will propel the band to stardom. But the somewhat slimy agent involved in the deal is not about to fork over any money up-front. The cash needed to shoot the video must be earned as the tour progresses.

It’s not too difficult to guess how the user earns the above-mentioned dollars. Situations arise throughout the virtual trip that require math skills–paths must be chosen, areas measured, change counted and pizzas equitably divided. Each correct solution increases the amount in the band’s piggy bank, while incorrect answers are costly.

The band is periodically invited to visit the recording studio and use acquired income to purchase music-video scenes. Manipulation of variables such as background and foreground content make these scenes great fun to create and personalize. The scenes build upon each other, so that by the end of the tour the user has compiled a full-length animated video that s/he can save and display for family and friends.

A help icon on each problem screen takes the user to the ‘reference library’ where necessary skills are clearly explained in language that is interesting and easy to follow. This section leads the user through the steps involved in solving basic math problems. Our child reviewers reported that they occasionally referred to the library, and always found what they needed for successful completion of the situation at hand.

The only complaint we received pertaining to the use of the program was dissatisfaction with a Pacman-like section that was presumably included to keep kids interested. The student must use the keyboard arrow keys to move the van around a maze where it seeks dollars signs (thus earning additional income) while evading fans. Manipulation of this section proved to be difficult and frustrating for our testers who felt that rather than improving the program’s appeal, it was a detraction.

PC: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, 486/66 or faster cpu, 8 MB RAM, 256-color Super VGA graphics, 2X or faster CD-ROM, Windows compatible sound device, mousereturn to top of page

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