This program is part of a new line of JumpStart CD-ROMs designed to help children study school subjects in a playful environment. JumpStart Study Helpers: Math Booster allows families to enter school math problems into the program for personalized practice at home, and is filled with hundreds of math problems spanning a variety of topics and covering six difficulty levels.
The CD-ROM offers three arcade-style games in which children solve math equations and problems. The activity our kid testers found the most addictive and fun was Galactic Pinball. In this game, kids need to move Frankie (who is trapped inside a ball) around a pinball board in such a way that he passes over numbers that solve mathematical equations. Kids have four possible answers to choose from. Swirling vortexes and various obstacles make this activity pleasantly challenging. Asteroid Smash involves shooting asteroids labeled with numbers that correctly complete the given equations. Finally, Digi-Hog Drop is a puzzle-style activity that involves maneuvering numbers and symbols in such a way that they form logical equations.
The Editor allows children (or their parents) to add actual school math problems into the games and is very straightforward. Players have the option to have the problems randomized or follow the order in which they were entered. The program includes progress reports and keeps track of game scores. Children can choose to play against the clock if they desire, and they are able to adjust the difficulty level of the arcade games. Children choose a starting level and math topic (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, Percentages and Decimals, and Review) before they begin the game, and the program adjusts the levels as they play. Six levels of difficulty are featured for each topic. For example, Addition includes sums 0-9, 10-14, 15-18, 10-100, 19-22, and 22-25. It follows that families can truly pick and choose the type of practice they want (or need) using the topic and level selectors. A nice option allows instructions to be played in Spanish.
Minimum system requirements are Windows 98/2000/Me/XP, Pentium 233 MHz, 64 MB RAM, and 12X CD-ROM. Mac users require a PowerMac G3 233 MHz or faster, System 8.6, 9.2.1, 10.1.2, 64 MB RAM, and 16X CD-ROM. The program requires 100 MB of hard drive space.
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, percentages, and decimals at first-fifth grade levels.
Personal math problems can be entered into the game and incorporated into the activities a feature that adds to the overall educational value of the game simply because kids receive targeted practice in areas they need it most. The program is effective at drilling math facts.
The entertainment value of the program would have been higher if more styles of activities were included. However, the program's games are very enjoyable.
Children younger than approximately seven years old might have some difficulty handling the keyboard controls in some of the games, but children ages seven up are likely to grow accustomed to the controls quickly. An unusual number of options are available for customizing the game, offering children a targeted and personalized experience.
On an academic level, the program boasts strong content. The editing option adds much replay value to the CD-ROM. However, some children will tire quickly of the three activities offered.
The program carries a suggested retail price of approximately $19.99 US.
Reviewed: July 2003