Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: The Quarter Mile Math


The little word that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of students everywhere. (Unless they're weird like my son, who happens to actually LIKE the stuff. But I digress.)

Math is clearly the unfavored subject around here and I honestly can't say that I blame my kids--or at least, my girls. I was never fond of the subject, as any of my former teachers could tell you, and I vowed at the tender age of 6 that my children would "never have to do anything like that!" (Ahem. Yeah. Sure.)

Well now that I'm a mom (and a homeschooling mom no less!), I carry my official Hypocrite License with pride. :) Sorry, kids.

Quite honestly, I wasn't too sure how they would take to reviewing a math program. While I knew my son would probably enjoy it, I was certain the girls would view it as a form of cruel and unusual punishment wrapped up in colorful graphics. However once we got started, it became clear that although their distaste for math wasn't about to change any time soon, The Quarter Mile Math just might take some of the sting out of learning their math facts. :)

The Quarter Mile Math by Barnum Software is designed to "boost children’s mental math skills and confidence by motivating them to do an incredible number of math problems quickly." For the purposes of this review, I'll be discussing their Deluxe Version which contains Levels 1-3 (or grade levels K-9th).

The User's Guide is clearly written and walks you through each component, step-by-step. It made the installation and set up process simple and painless, especially when it explained the "minor detail" about how the screen resolution would change upon start-up. (Which would've normally thrown me for a loop.)

As an added feature, the program can be installed on multiple computers to be used by several students, and copies can be made for out-of-state grandparents or siblings who want to compete in a tournament against the other students. (More on that later.)

Once you've installed the program, you then have to register each child with his/her own name and password to login. (Again, very simple.) After that it's "off to the races!"

Students are provided with some flexibility within the program:
  • They have the option of racing as either a dragster (vroom, vroom!) or a horse (neigh!)
  • They can choose to "Track their progress over time" or "Race with everyone" (which basically determines how their scores are saved)
  • And they (or the parent) can choose which of Quarter Mile's extensive Subjects (subdivided into 323 Topics) to test their abilities.

At first, students race against computer generated dragsters or horses (known as Fast Eddy 1-4) by answering on-screen math problems as fast as possible. The faster they answer the problems correctly, the faster their car/horse goes. If their answer is incorrect, they have 3 chances to get it right. After the 3rd incorrect answer, the correct answer is flashed on the screen. The student then has to type in the correct answer before moving on to the next question.

At the end of each race, their time is recorded. Once their first 5 races are completed, they're no longer competing against "Fast Eddy 1-4", but rather against their own best times. (By the way, all of the Fast Eddies are designed to lose, thereby raising your child's confidence from the get-go.)

The Quarter Mile is highly intuitive and measures the slightest of improvements each time. This allows for a accurate record of your child's skills, and makes this program more than just another "computer game".

For the competitive, the program also allows tournaments to be held between the various registered racers. You do this by simply recording your scores under the "Race With Everyone" option. Each racer's score is then recorded and displayed on everyone else's Racer's Menu. From the website: "To have a tournament, simply choose a topic everyone will be racing in and start racing. It can last as long as you wish—an hour, a day, a week, or longer."

As mentioned previously, the program contains several Subjects:
  • Numbers & Letters (Which means you get typing practice, too! A very nifty bonus indeed.)
  • Whole Numbers
  • Fraction Introduction
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percents
  • Estimation Preparation
  • Math Strategies
  • Estimation
  • Integers
  • Equations

The subjects are then subdivided into 323 topics, which boils down to a hefty 70,000 different math problems.

The Quarter Mile doesn't "teach" students how to do the problems, nor does it provide grades. The program does not allow a child to "move up" as they go, either. It only tracks student's progress by recording their top 5 scores, the drills they took, and the number of problems they completed.

At first that kind of bugged me, but then I realized that's part of the program's beauty. The fact that any student -- in any grade--can move up/down as needed, made sense once I realized how "depressing" a grade level could be. (Especially when you have, oh say, a 13 yr old who struggles with division more so than her kid brother. Ahem.)

Therefore, using this for grading purposes isn't recommended. However, if your children need a solid "brush up" or just need a break from boring workbook pages, then The Quarter Mile is perfect! :)

A couple of interesting "footnotes":
  • The program is used at all 1,300+ Sylvan Learning Centers across the country and Canada
  • And correlates to all state math standards and NCTM standards. (So if you don't take my word for it, you can take theirs.--Hee hee) :o)

The Quarter Mile is available in either Standard or Deluxe versions. A detailed comparison between the two options is available by clicking here.

Depending upon the level you choose, the Standard Version ranges in price from $39.95-$89.95 (Levels 1-3 or a Bundle of 2 or more levels).

The Deluxe Version is available by subscription with a price breakdown of:
  • $2.95 per family per month
  • $19.95 per family for one year (save $15.45 over one year) and
  • $34.95 per family for two years (save $35.85 over two years)
  • You also have the option to download the program directly and/or request a back-up CD for an additional $5.
  • ***STOP PRESS*** As a special bonus, you can take $5 off your choice of either the Deluxe or Standard Version from now until September 30! Simply enter code: 7T7W7 at checkout! :o) Yippee!
Barnum Software offers an unconditional 30 day, money-back guarantee on all purchases. If you'd like to "try before you buy" you can download a Free Demo of the program here.

There's even a portion of their website dedicated especially to Homeschoolers. Simply click here to learn more about the program, download a printable progress chart, or join forum discussions with other Quarter Mile users.

Overall, my family was very impressed with this program. My children are highly competitive and enjoyed hammering out their answers on their keyboards as opposed to writing on paper. They all seemed to prefer the dragsters over the horses (they are their father's children, what can I say?), and even though they were still technically doing math, it wasn't so bad. Borderline enjoyable, really. Not that they'll admit it. :o)

I'm proud to recommend The Quarter Mile Math and give it a solid two thumbs up!

1 comment:

Cheryl Henderson said...

I really enjoyed reading your review. I was also impressed by the way the math subjects were broken up into sizeable little chunks for kids of all ages.


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