An arcade alley is the setting for this fabulous math workout, complete with funky characters and colorful graphics. After sign-in, children select one of 5 skill levels, each corresponding to a specific age group, from level 1 (designed for children ages 8-9) to level 5 (for ages 12-13).
Arcade Alley is packed with 8 unique shops and a gaming arcade. Naturally, children in the target age group will be immediately drawn to the arcade, but they'll quickly discover that the games therein cost money! In order to earn the cash, players do shift work as employees in the Alley's shops. Players can peek into their wallet at any time to check how much money they've earned.
Colorful customers, including a bespectacled elderly lady with a poodle in her purse, saunter into the shops, making their requests. Children use each shop's unique workstation designed for solving the specific types of math problems at hand. A demo introduces children to the workings of their station, and an excellent hint system endows players with the ability to choose just a little help in the form of a strategy, a sample solution, or the answer (though credit is lost for the problem if this latter option is selected).
Kids net a certain amount of cash for solving each problem, even earning a promotion and a raise if all goes well. Each "shift" consists of a set of 10 similar problems. Children work with fractions in Cookie-Rama, and serve up out-of-this-world (literally) imports in Universal Imports, where they must make change for the customers using the fewest coins and bills. In Chez Bernie, players determine the best way to serve the shop's customers exactly what they need. At level 2, for example, a customer might request 71 oz. of Lava Lotion using the fewest number of bottles, and players must work with bottles sized at 1 oz, 6 oz, and 36 oz. In Wheel Power, children need to interpret customers' graphs; and detective work at the PI's office requires finding all numbers along a number line that fit a list of clues, such as less than 81, greater than 62, multiple of 8, even number, and the sum of the digits of x is 8 (level 2).
The shop setting provides an excellent context for practicing math problems, and most children will be motivated to work through the program, helped by the appealing arcade-game study breaks. Though children can pick and choose where they earn their money, the designers of the program have cleverly added an incentive for completing a shift in each of the 8 shops. If this bonus money tempts players, they'll be motivated to explore each of the shops for at least the length of a shift!
Minimum system requirements are Windows 95/98, a 486 66Mhz or faster processor, 12 MB of RAM (16 MB recommended), 2X CD-ROM, and a minimum of 5 MB hard disk space available.
Humongous games are generally very easy to install, and this game was no exception. With Windows 95/98 AutoPlay, it is a breeze. No glitches have been encountered, and graphics and audio are superb. Some "printables" are included, and printing can be turned on or off at the parentís discretion.
Computation, equalities and inequalities, factors, primes, even/odd numbers, graphs, measurement (distance, time, weight), mental math, money computation, fractions, consumer math, order of operations, patterns and functions, pre-algebra, problem solving, critical thinking, logic.
A wide range of brainy math problems at 5 levels of difficulty is featured. As children work through the problems, they simultaneously build their confidence and facility with numbers and problem solving. Both parents and educators should be pleased with this disc's outstanding educational content.
Though there is little disguising the fact that children are tackling math problems, the setting is clever nonetheless, with a clear and fun goal of playing arcade-style games after earning cash. A hip cast of characters and quirky shops (such as Truly Tasteless Toys) add spunk to the program.
Children sign in and set a global level of difficulty for the program, though at any time through the course of the activities they can choose to increase or decrease the challenge of the problems. The hints system is well done, offering strategies to solve problems as well as sample solutions. Adults can turn off the calculator option if they feel children could use the computation practice, and the mastery percentage for each shift can be adjusted. A progress report is also available.
Sizeable content ensures much replay potential. Children work toward the goal of playing arcade-style games as rewards for their hard work.
The suggested retail price for this program is $19.99 US.
Reviewed: April 2001