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 Math & Science Excelerator Grades 3-6 Rating:
 The Bottom Line This bundle of four CD-ROMs offers creative math quizzes and original science lessons set in engaging adventure formats. Plenty of strong content makes this bundle especially worthwhile.
Ages: 8-11   Subject: Math/Science   Brand: Topics Entertainment
 Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Skills Covered  Educational Value  Entertainment Value  Design  Replayability  Dollar Value

Product Overview
This program is not to be confused with a title of the same name released in 2001. This new-for-2003 set includes four programs, as follows:
• Geosafari Knowledge Pad Math: Multiplication & Division
• GeoSafari Knowledge Pad Math: Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages

Serving up the math portion of the set is a double dose of GeoSafari Knowledge Pad Math. Both games are fashioned after the GeoSafari electronic learning toy system. They provide plenty of fun, self-paced, focused practice in math through a quiz format. In both programs, children are presented with beautiful illustrated and photo-realistic objects to group and arrange. Players begin by selecting a mix of worksheets, pulled from multiple levels and topics, and placing them on their activity palette. Alternatively, they can select a random mix. Either way, children work through their worksheets one at a time, collecting points for their successes, and facing bonus timed questions (which can be turned on or off as desired) for extra challenge.

In Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages, some activities include using a number line to determine equivalencies; changing fractions to percentages; determining whether letters of the alphabet are symmetrical vertically, horizontally, or not at all; extending patterns with numbers, fractions, and percentages; and referring to a circle graph in order to answer word problems. Multiplication & Division is similar in format (see our full review).

Both GeoSafari Knowledge Pad Math programs offer a creative variety of skill-building quizzes. Although children earn points as they succeed, they don't turn the points in for anything else. Because of this lack of a substantial reward system, children may need to be encouraged to stick with the programs.

Two separate programs starring a fiesty and cute little bird, Mango Plumo, offer plenty of unique and creative science lessons in adventure-style settings. The goals of the games are a little confusing at first, but once understood, both programs present enjoyable challenges. Mango Plumo's Weather Adventure (see our full review) offers lessons on the wind, different types of clouds, precipitation, weather forecasting, and related topics. More animated science lessons are found in Mango Plumo's Space Adventure. In this latter game, children help Mango outsmart an evil sorcerer, release the planets, and free the imprisoned constellations. They need to find six keys to the sorcerer's castle in order to complete their mission. Along the way, they watch Professor Funnybone's science demonstrations. In this case, children receive animated demonstrations that teach them about the Sun, stars, Moon, planets, comets, and asteroids. They learn about concepts like the seasons and gravity, and participate in a variety of activities.

In both Mango Plumo games, the adventures are a little tricky to complete, but the animated science lessons are highly original. Kids can read their Adventure Log, play activities independently of the adventure, and view suggested science experiments.

Technically Speaking
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95 and higher including XP, Pentium 200 MHz (Pentium II 300 recommended), 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), and 4X CD-ROM (8X recommended). Mac users require a PowerPC 200 MHz or faster, System OS 8.1 or later, including OSX, 32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended), and 4X CD-ROM (8X recommended). The program requires 80 MB of hard drive space.

Skills Covered
Word problems, estimation, rounding off numbers, spatial relationships, multiplication and division, identifying products, dividends, and remainders, graphing, plotting coordinates, money math, adding and subtracting fractions, rounding decimals, improper fractions, space concepts, weather concepts.

Educational Value
The math programs in the set are effective at building and reinforcing skills. Although all programs offer variety and originality in their presentations, this set does not offer much room for active exploration of concepts.

Entertainment Value
Both Mango Plumo titles feature gorgeous graphics and stylish songs. The science lessons are as entertaining as they are educational. Both GeoSafari math programs feature quiz formats that hold some appeal to children in the target age group.

Design
Both Mango titles are slow-moving at times, largely because players can't bypass some of the lengthier instructions. The GeoSafari titles use text-only instructions and lessons—not good use of technology, but for children in the target age group, this can be considered a bonus simply because they will be doing a fair amount of reading.

Replayability
If you add up the activities on all four programs in the set (each of which has fared well on its own), there is a large amount of content in the package.

Dollar Value
The program carries a suggested retail price of approximately \$19.99 US.

Released: 2003
Reviewed: April 2003