Newest 'Math Blaster' helps kids at blazing speed

Program set in future where robots take over

Gannett News ServiceThe new “Math Blaster” is set in the future, in a world where robots have taken over because humans have forgotten how to do math.
Best for ages 6 to 12
Knowledge Adventure, www.knowledgeadventure.com, $29.99, Windows 2000/XP.
For the past 20 years, the "Math Blaster" series of software has taught kids math facts by engaging them in fast-paced arcade games. "Math Blaster: Master the Basics," the newest in the series for kids ages 6 to 12, doesn't deviate much from this popular format. It still delivers math practice in a fast-paced setting, but its look and feel have been upgraded to reflect the current video game culture.
This new "Math Blaster" is set in the future, in a world where robots have taken over because humans have forgotten how to do math. Players join the Math Blaster Corps, and take on the persona of a hip-looking boy who is outfitted with anti-gravity boots and a special energy-blasting glove. Only by answering math questions on Earth, Saturn and Pluto can the player save humanity.
While there are six different games tied together by this save-the-world storyline, the predominant formats are side-scrolling and platform. In both, players seek the numbers they need to answer math equations while avoiding bad robots, blasting apart obstacles and jumping onto moving platforms.
Before starting their adventure, kids choose from eight levels of math content, with the easiest covering addition and subtraction up to eight and the hardest drilling quotients and products involving multiples of 10. The games test kids' speed and accuracy in answering math facts, their ability to complete math equations, and how well they can do mental math and problem solving.
While the pace is fast, if players are having trouble completing a round, the software slows down the robots' interference so that kids have more time to think.
"Math Blaster: Master the Basics" puts drilling math facts into a gaming format that will intrigue this generation of video game-playing kids. However, the software's frenetic pace may not be a good fit for children who need time to calculate math answers, particularly younger kids. Also, the game will have less appeal to girls since the main character and all the secondary characters are male.

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