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Review CornerSoftware
Achieve! Math & Science Grades 1-3
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This set of 4 CD-ROMs presents rich learning environments that encourage exploration, investigation, and independent thought.
Award
Ages: 5-8   Subject: Math/Science   Brand: The Learning Company/Riverdeep
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Tremendous value — both educational and economical — can be found in this set of 4 previously-released CD-ROMs. Four titles, updated for current operating systems, are included:
  • Mighty Math Carnival Countdown
  • Mighty Math Zoo Zillions
  • Sammy's Science House
  • Thinkin' Things FrippleTown

Most of these titles features an innovative "grow slide" feature. The software automatically advances in difficulty level as children progress, and can be adjusted by using this slide. Parents can preview the topics or learning challenges included on the many levels of each activity. Also common to all programs—and excellent—is the opportunity to explore and experiment rather than simply regurgitate answers to drill questions. With educational games that give children the elbow room to learn through trial and error, learning is never shallow. Children are more likely to retain what they learn.

Mighty Math Carnival Countdown creatively introduces kids to such math tools as Venn Diagrams and pattern blocks in a child-friendly setting. Each activity in the game can be played in Question and Answer or Explore modes. In the latter mode, kids "play" with manipulatives and tools in an engaging manner. Children investigate quantities as they learn about equivalencies ("greater than", "less than", and "equal to") in one activity that draws upon the power of visualization in math.

Mighty Math Zoo Zillions can be considered a companion software to Mighty Math Carnival Countdown—it features another set of math concepts commonly encountered in early grade curriculum. Money math, skip counting, and 3D geometry are some of the skills children develop as they play. Math story-problems are often tough for young children, but an activity in this program deals with these admirably through "fish stories" in an aquarium. In the "Gnu Ewe" shop, players help customers pick out items, keeping in mind how much money the customers have to spend. On slightly higher levels, kids make change (for example, a customer needs change for a dime, and kids have a choice of quarters and nickels to satisfy the customer). In another activity, children become engineers on the "number line" express. They might take on an assignment on the "90 to 110" line and, for example, fulfill a passenger's request at stop 103 to go back 6 stops.

Exposure to early science concepts like animal habitats, the seasons, the weather, and more, is found in Sammy's Science House. This program is best for younger children in the suggested age group of 5-8. Children sort pictures into cans according to criteria such as "webbed feet" or "have pouches". Each animal, mineral, and plant is named as children pick it up with the mouse, so they learn to identify such things as "quartz" and "maple tree" as they play.

Thinkin' Things FrippleTown is an engaging program that challenges children to think logically. Our favorite activity involves fulfilling customers' rather bizarre cookie requests. At first, children choose the tools (such as cookie cutters, special effects, sprinkles, and so forth) in any order. As the challenge level increases, however, they need to turn and flip their cookies and use tools in a particular order—an order that they must discover. It's quite a mental workout! More learning through exploration can be found in two creative activities: one involves discerning patterns and creating flags based on these observations; another, called "Skate Park", involves selecting skate routines in advance and watching as the skater creates fancy patterns on the ice. This latter game involves more than simple creativity—in order to create the designs they want, kids work through trial and error until they get it just right.

We're happy that these older titles have been revived and updated for the latest operating systems so that kids can continue to enjoy and learn from them. Kids discover concepts of math and science for themselves so that learning is more likely to "stick".

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95B/98/ME/XP, Pentium 166 MHz or faster, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerPC 120 MHz or faster, System 8.6 to 9.2.2, 32 MB RAM, and 8X CD-ROM. The program requires 45 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Children develop skills in visual creativity, map reading, patterns, prediction, deductive reasoning, problem solving, addition, subtraction, logic, sorting, classification, equivalencies, memory, following rules, multiplication, division, 2D geometry, money math, counting, skip counting, animal habitats, attribute discrimination, and weather and seasons.

Educational Value
Rich and deep educational opportunities are found in each of the set's 4 CD-ROMs. Learning is active and "hands on"—never superficial. An encouraging and non-judgmental learning environment that invites children to discover basic concepts independently is what sets this program apart.

Entertainment Value
The characters that host the games are perhaps not as engaging as some, but the programs are stimulating and enjoyable.

Design
Smart design features are present: both automatic and manual adjusting of difficulty levels, explore and modes, and the ability to click through repetitious instructions.

Replayability
All four programs contain sizable content and engaging learning games that ensure strong replay value.

Dollar Value
This CD-ROM carries a suggested retail price of approximately $20 US.

Released: 2003
Reviewed: February 2003