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Review CornerSoftware
Big Thinkers! 1st Grade
Rating: Rating
The Bottom Line
This program boasts an above-average number of high-interest activities, fun characters, and more challenging games than most programs of this genre that are surprisingly fun to play. Many average first-graders will find some of the activities too difficult, but the positive feedback and help when kids are stumbling tend to offset this problem.
Award
Ages: 5-7  Subject: Curriculum  Brand: Humongous Entertainment
Review Sections: Product Overview  Entertainment Value  Technically Speaking  Design  Skills Covered  Replayability  Educational Value  Dollar Value
 
 
image Product Overview
Big Thinkers! 1st Grade is a curriculum-based free-play program that is packed with fun, educational activities. The activities cover important first grade skills such as phonics, coin values, time, math, and more.

The stars of this software title are Ben and Becky Brightly who get involved in each activity in more ways than you can imagine — they morph into all sorts of things, including puzzles, a crane, and more! In an early geography activity, the blue-haired twin Ben's body stretches out to form a globe.

Smart Stars are FUN to collect — they pop up on the screen after successful game-playing, and kids love to click on them and watch their antics as they drop down, bounce, and even parachute, into their BrainBank. In order to play the special SuperStar of Smarts activity, kids need to have earned SmartStars of each color.

Becky and Ben's house is filled with "clickables" as well as loads of activities, each with 3 difficulty levels that are easily adjusted. When children click on the building blocks in the Brightly twins' play room, for example, they are taken to an activity in which kids must load shapes that are labelled with fractions into train cars. Another activity takes the form of a game show in which kids must identify whether a given sound forms the first, middle, or last part of a word. First graders can do a simple paint activity, make music, learn about coin values, add nouns and verbs to a story, identify oceans, countries, and continents on a globe, and more.

Clicking on the Think'n'Go icon will take players to a screen that allows faster access to the different rooms and activities.

This program is busier than most first-grade titles on the market, and it tends to be somewhat more challenging too. For example, the Read a Story game is rather difficult to read for the average first-grader, and kid testers ended up doing a lot of guessing. The location of the activities is not immediately obvious. Some children will love exploring and discovering the activities, but others may end up doing a lot of aimless clicking.

Many of the activiities are original and very educational. One excellent activity has children placing magnet shapes onto a pre-formed pattern on the board. Kids need to rotate the shapes in order to fill the pattern, and can make their own pattern as well. Others have children sorting objects into appropriate groups, such as food into the basic food groups, as well as transportation, animals, and more.

The difficulty of the program can be a benefit or a downfall, depending on the needs of an individual child. Kids in need of a challenge will find plenty to do. For example, there is a basic geography activity that has children identifying Mexico, Africa, the Pacific Ocean, etc. You won't find this type of activity in a typical software title for the targeted age group!

It was a delight to watch kid testers try out this program! Everyone gathered around — they giggled, they collaborated with each other on the activities, and simply put, had a blast. Not only that, the kids returned to the game often. Big Thinkers! 1st Grade has a lot of life in it, with more than the average number of activities for software of this genre.

Don't let the copyright date fool you into thinking this title is outdated by any means. It has all the features you would expect from a current curriculum-based software title, and more. Humongous Entertainment has tended to be ahead of their time.

Technically Speaking
Minimum reqs are Win 3.1, a 486/33, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM. For Macs, a 68040/25 with 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM.

No installation is required for Windows 95/98 and Mac users — simply plug in the CD and play!

Skills Covered
addition, subtraction, nouns and verbs, fractions, spelling, life and physical sciences, problem solving, strategy, thinking skills, letter sounds, measurement & estimation, sequencing & patterning, spelling, phonics, time telling, reading, sentences, counting, computation, geography, directions, environmental science, thinking skills, spatial perception, art, creativity, music

Educational Value
The range of activities is fantastic and educational content is high. This title contains some activities that are more challenging than most first-grade programs on the market. Feedback is very positive.

Entertainment Value
This program truly makes learning fun. Children love the original characters and activities.

Design
A Smart Chart feature keeps track of SmartStars earned in each category. Children need to do a fair amount of exploring to get to the activities at the outset, but soon will get to know where to locate their favorites. Important icons pop up when kids move their cursor to the bottom of the screen, and they use these to exit the game, change the difficulty levels, print out a screen, and check on their Smart Stars.

Replayability
More content than most titles in this category and truly original activities that provide variety and entertainment add to the longevity of the game. Kids love earning different colored Smart Stars.

Dollar Value
At $10 US, you can't go wrong. This title is also available in a bundle entitled World of Fun & Learning 1st Grade (see our review).

Released: 1999