I review hundreds of software titles in a year, and it is very rare to come across such an outstanding title. For $20, consumers get 29 in-depth learning activities found on two CDs: one entitled Stuart Little: His Adventures in Numberland and the other, Stuart Little: His Adventures in Wordland. The former isn’t new—its content was originally released 1999 as “Piggy in Numberland.” After winning numerous awards, the title’s content was repackaged last year with Stuart Little in the lead character. Now, that same title is bundled with the new Stuart Little: His Adventures in Wordland. Numberland was great, and Wordland is as good, if not better.
In Stuart Little: His Adventures in Numberland, children help Stuart explore a magical 3-D place and, in the process, learn about numbers, counting, addition, subtraction, early geometry, art, and logical reasoning.
Stuart appears as an outsized cursor, thus enabling kids to direct his movements. In one activity, children learn to identify numbers and their sequence by connecting numbered dots which magically paint a picture. In another, they learn to count the dots on dice to play a board game with talking kangaroos and pandas. As motivation to play, children can increase Stuart’s onscreen brain power, which enables them to create imaginary toys.
In Stuart Little: His Adventures in Wordland, kids join Stuart as he dreams of visiting his Aunt Polly. In Stuart’s dream, he arrives at Aunt Polly’s home to find that she is gone but has left a note written in code. To decode the note, Aunt Polly suggests that Stuart increase his brain power by playing five games found in her family room. In the simplest game, kids find letters that are requested and learn about words that start with that sound. They will also match upper and lower case letters by bringing baby animals back to their mothers.
After gaining enough brain power to decipher Aunt Polly’s note, kids discover that she has gone on a sailing ship and on to a mining town. At each of these two new locations, Aunt Polly has left new notes that need decoding; so kids play more games. These games focus on early reading skills, logic, and creativity. One particularly innovative activity (although they are all unique and creative) has children listening to sounds and then selecting artwork that most closely represents the sound visually. Kid-testers readily made the connection between sound and art.
Stuart Little Learning Adventures is an exceptional children’s software bundle for several reasons. Its depth of content is far greater than what is normally found in children’s software—there are 11 activities in Numberland and 18 activities in Wordland. And those activities offer multiple levels of content that vary in the way they are presented. The learning engine in both titles is very sophisticated. The content adjusts to the child’s ability by increasing in difficulty when they are succeeding and decreasing in difficulty when they are struggling. The engine also has built-in tutoring; so concepts are explained by characters within the games—particularly when a child is struggling.
The activities found in Numberland and Wordland are not the run of the mill—these are unique activities that teach math and reading concepts in creative and effective ways. The concept of increasing brain power as a motivational mechanism works—kid-testers wanted to play more. This software comes with excellent report cards for parents and teachers; and, because of its structure, it can work equally as well in a home or school setting. Teachers will even find information about how the activities correspond to state teaching standards.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.