This very focused software title is designed to review and reinforce 3rd-grade math curriculum facts. Hosted by Max and Nina, kids are taken through a series of games with 4 skill levels, and can play alone or with one or two friends/classmates.
Mathematics is a subject that requires some memorizing along with critical thinking skills. This title will help kids to absorb and remember important mental math facts such as addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, as well as concepts such as rounding, estimation, probability, decimals, fractions, story problems, and more.

Each game features 4 types of math games:

- Thinking fast is crucial in UFOs. Kids need to ring in when a fact that flies across the screen meets the given rule. For example, the rule may be "The number is odd and less than 13" and a possible answer may be the equation 10-5.
- In Get a Clue, players are presented with 4 possible answers, then clues appear one by one. Children use the process of elimination as well as their knowledge of math concepts to deduce the correct answer.
- Totally Twisters presents children with mind-twisting challenges that take the form of Story Problems, Number Line, or Mental Math. Story Problems require children to identify relevant information and sometimes use pictures to solve a problem. In Number Line, players are shown a pointer on a number line and must estimate the likely number that it would represent. The Mental Math activity requires students to add, subtract, multiply, and/or divide in their heads to arrive at the correct answer.
- Kids take a break from competing in Cooperation Break, a game that requires kids to navigate a "vacusaurus" around a computer circuit board to suck up numbers that fit the given rule. Each player controls a different direction of the machine's movement.

There's no use of the mouse in this game! Players ring in and select options using keys on the keyboard. Note that some math topics overlap the curricula in 2nd and 4th grades, providing review and new challenges for the typical 3rd grader.
The format of this program is interesting — the game format means children need to respond fairly quickly, and though they are often playing against others, there are also game breaks that require cooperating with opponents. When children are competing, they are learning from others' mistakes. It will be important that kids playing the game are mature enough to handle this kind of competition. Kids who are struggling would do best on their own.

We find the program to be quite suited to the average third-grader, since this is an age when many kids enjoy competition, but at the same time, are quite social creatures. This software does a good job of combining both competitive and cooperative activities.

My own son, who is in the midst of third grade, tested this software. Like many kids, he is a little wary of software titles that emphasize education and prefers to play video games in his spare time. Naturally, he was not totally enthused to work on a math program. I told him that he would play one game every day for two weeks, and he somewhat grudgingly agreed. After a few days, I forgot to remind him to play the program, but to my delight, he reminded me. He really enjoys the games, and suggested playing with his friends when they were visiting.

The Cooperation Break game is a little tricky to control when a child is playing alone. Another minor gripe was that the hosts' jokes were too repetitive and soon wore thin (more variety would have been nice). Otherwise, the program is straightforward to play and generally designed well.

While *MindTwister Math* is highly appropriate in a school setting, it is also perfectly suited for home use and homeschooling families. It is not a title that does a whole lot of teaching, but is meant to reinforce math facts. Some of the Totally Twisters challenges are very creative. The Number Line challenges help kids understand the relationship between different numbers in a very effective visual manner. Also unique is the activity in which kids must determine the time that a clock reads by looking only at its mirror image.

The School Version contains a teacher's guide with reproducible activity sheets and suggested classroom activities.

Technically Speaking

Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98, Pentium or better, and 16 Mb RAM. For Macs, a Power PC with 12 Mb RAM, System 7.1.2 or higher.

Skills Covered

addition/subtraction facts to 9, multiplication facts to 9, division facts to 6, 2- 3- and 4-digit addition/subtraction, mental math, place value to thousands, time, money, length, weight, temperature, rounding, estimation, number line, probability, 2-D and 3-D geometry, perimeter, decimals in tenths and hundredths, fractions and mixed numbers, story problems, categorization skills, Boolean logic, spatial visualization, analogy building, odd/even numbers, skip counting, cooperation, deductive reasoning, identifying relevant/irrelevant information, strategy

Educational Value

Third grade is a time for memorization of math facts and learning to think fast, as well as math exploration. This game generally takes care of math review and reinforcement, but also contains some creative problems that have kids stretching ("twisting") their minds.

Entertainment Value

Edmark has cleverly used a game format with cute little creatures as game pieces. The hosts make jokes that become repetitive (there is not enough variety), but generally kid testers enjoyed playing the game.

Design

The computer mouse is deactivated in this title. Instructions are very clear and can be skipped by pressing the spacebar. Exiting and starting new games is straightforward. There are 4 distinct levels of difficulty.

Replayability

There are thousands of unique games to play, and even when questions repeat themselves, this repetition can actually be beneficial because of the very nature of the game (the program is designed to reinforce and review math facts). The addition of some 2nd and 4th grade math curricula helps to provide both review and new challenges to keep kids busy.

Dollar Value

The consumer version is $29.95 US, and the school version (containing 2 CDs) is $49.95 US. There are also lab packs and site license options available.

Released: 1999

Reviewed: March 2000