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Awesome Animated Monster Maker Math Adventure
© 1998 Houghton Mifflin Interactive

CTR Review
For ages 7-10
For grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
$34.95, Win 95, Win 3.1, Mac OS (CD-ROM)
Teaches: math: math facts, measurement, logical thinking, etc.
Nasty Blobblers have stolen a "monsterpiece" from the art gallery, so kids must help the good guys (a.k.a. the Crumblers) recover the missing painting. Their first task is to assemble a Monster Hero out of a wide array of monster body parts. Next it's off to a sequential progression of math games and puzzles. There are essentially four types of challenges: an arcade style mental math game, a measuring activity, a sorting task and a grid-based game that teaches directions and coordinates.

The program covers a wide range of content (1st -6th grade levels). It also has an excellent automatic leveling system that allows children to try more difficult problems in their stronger skill areas, while maintaining the difficulty level in those areas they find challenging. The measurement activity is especially good as it asks kids to manipulate tools to measure length, weight and time. The arcade mental math game is also strong (albeit flawed, see below), and teaches the child to compute quickly in order to succeed. Another good feature is that specific objectives can be selected for different children, allowing for prescriptive skill practice.

Unfortunately, in addition to the above strengths, the CD has some serious weaknesses. Much of the game is confusing. We never managed to figure out the plot, the navigational icons, or the moneybug rewards. Testers found the overabundant verbal feedback and narration annoying, and spent more time clicking through this stuff than doing math problems. Also, kids were upset to find that if they made too many mistakes on the arcade math game, they had to start the whole adventure over from the very beginning. Punishing children for their math mistakes doesn't make for a very "kid-friendly" program.
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