Personal Trainer: Math is a high tech way to do a low tech thing: learn math facts with flashcards.
Instead of parents putting their kids through their math paces using a set of flash cards, this Nintendo DS game does it for them by having a children play the game for 10 minutes a day. Is this method better than using flash cards? Not really. Is it more fun? Yes. The use of technology and the variations from traditional flash cards makes this method more engaging.
To attain mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, kids need to memorize the facts using repetition. Personal Trainer: Math provides a way to consistently practice essential math facts in an ordered, sequential way. It keeps track of accuracy and speed over days and months of practice.
When kids first sign into Personal Trainer: Math, they meet a cartoon version of Professor Kageyama of the Center for Research and Educational Development in Higher Education at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, who acts as host and math coach. Kageyama pioneered the 100-Cell Calculation Method, which is used in this game. Professor Kageyama encourages kids to play the game every day.
From the main menu, kids have three choices: Daily Test, Kageyama Method, or Practice Exercises. The Daily Test involves three exercises (pulled from the 40 Practice Exercises and the Kageyama Method) geared toward kids' level of math mastery. Players start on Level 1 and work their way up to Level 20. On Level 1, kids will be shown flash cards showing objects from 1 to 10 and their task is to quickly identify the number of objects and write that number on the screen. Kids will also be shown addition and subtraction facts and have to write the answers as quickly as possible. At the end of each exercise, accuracy and time results are recorded and compared with optimal scores. Completion of the Daily Test results in a check mark on an in-game calendar.
The Kageyama Method has kids practice addition, subtraction, or multiplication by using100-Cell Math, which features a 10 x 10 grid where numbers from 1 through 10 have been placed randomly along the side and top. For each test, kids combine the numbers from the top and the side and place the answer in the corresponding square in the grid. Kids can start with grids as small as 10 cells, and then progress to 30, 50, and finally 100. This method can also be played with up to 15 other people using one game cartridge where all are vying for the best time.
In the Practice Exercises, kids can target their area of math practice. For example if they want to practice multiplication tables involving the number 9, they can do that. They can also select how they want to practice, with exercises including flash cards, completing math sentences, and exploring math ladders (where you add or subtract a number repeatedly).
Personal Trainer: Math is not a traditional video game, rather it is an educational learning aid. By presenting math drills on the Nintendo DS, the video game format helps to take some of the drudgery out of memorizing math facts. The drills are varied and the handwriting recognition works well.
But, this product is pretty dry, and not as much fun as others in the Nintendo Touch Generation series, like Brain Age or Big Brain Academy. What it does do well is get kids to drill math facts to improve their calculation speed and accuracy, in just 10 minutes a day. All you have to do is remind them to turn on their Nintendo DS and use it.
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