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The premise of Mongro's Monstrous Money Math is that players are replicating a “monstrous mathematical journey” undertaken by the troll Mongro many years back. At the beginning of the game, players see an image of the title character, accompanied by a brief narrative. The narrative explains that many years ago the king of Grammaria gave Mongro some money with which to seek his fortune. Mongro’s subsequent journey enabled him to make the fortune he needed to open his magic shop. He advises players that if they, too, use their money wisely, perhaps they can one day open their own magic shops.
Mongro's Monstrous Money Math is essentially a board game on the computer screen and may be played in English or in Spanish. Players choose four characters from an array of fanciful creatures such as Spelling Dragon, Bongo Fish, Arctic Skiguin, Grammar Hound and Bovinalina. Four characters are necessarily involved in each game; players choose their playing levels as well as which creatures will be operated by humans and which ones will be controlled by the computer. Players click on a gem in the middle of the screen to determine how many spaces each character will advance. Each space indicates a task: answer a quiz question, catch coins, receive money from another player, play the memorizing mini game. Players earn and lose money along the journey. At the beginning of the game, players keep their money “under the mattress”. When they have accumulated predetermined sums, players may choose to earn interest by opening a bank account (low-risk investment), investing in stocks (higher-risk investment), or turning over their money to Uncle Fred (very risky investment). The creature that finishes the game with the most money is proclaimed the winner.
The intriguing title of the application, Mongro's Monstrous Money Math, clearly conveys that learning about money is the primary focus of this game. The manual states that the objectives of the application are “to recognize American coins and bills, to practice mathematical arithmetic, to introduce the concepts of saving and investing, to practice solving word problems, and to acquire a strong financial vocabulary”. Unfortunately, the program is not terribly effective in helping players to achieve most of these goals.
Many of the quiz questions ask players to find the sum of a group of coins. While this may be an effective arithmetic drill, it does not aid players in identifying American coins, as the coins shown on the screen are simply colored circles (copper, silver and gold) containing a number such as 5¢, 10¢, 25¢ or 50¢. Additionally, the one dollar gold coins are labeled with the dollar sign following the number (1$); children learning about money should be taught the correct notation with the dollar sign preceding the number ($1). Incorporating pictures of coins and bills (front and back) would make this a much stronger exercise.
The catching coins task challenges players to pick up as much money as they can during a period of a few seconds. Players use the arrow keys to move their creatures around the screen. While the time pressure and the idea of free money may be exciting, there is not much educational value inherent in this activity. In order to capture the most money, players must know which indicates a greater value, $ or ¢. The only other challenge is to determine which numbers are bigger: 1, 5, 10, or 25. Again, this activity would be greatly enhanced by using pictures of real coins.
Becoming familiar with money is a concept often addressed with children ages 6-8, children whose reading abilities vary greatly. The creators of Mongro's Monstrous Money Math may have had this in mind when designing the quiz questions. Not only do they appear written on the screen, they are also read in a very clear and precise manner to assist players who may have difficulty reading all of the words. Unfortunately, this is not a standard feature for all written instructions and explanations, of which there are many. A button that players could click to hear the words that appear on the screen would be of great assistance.
Mongro's Monstrous Money Math is certainly a title that fosters some intrigue. The Creature Roll Call, the process in which players select the four participating characters, presents an array of crazy creatures to choose from, each making a unique gruff or ethereal sound. Unfortunately, this seems to be the highlight of the game; certainly the quality of the graphics diminishes following the Creature Roll Call.
Play progresses just like a game board with players advancing the number of spaces indicated by the computer. Happy is the player who has selected human control (as opposed to computer control) for each of the four creatures, as this player actually gets to participate in more than 25% of the game. The actions of creatures controlled by the computer are simply reported in a text box in the center of the screen, although players must wait for each turn to be taken. This requires much patience.
Several users (adults, too) experienced frustration with the Memorizing Mini Game. Players are instructed that they will have “8 seconds to memorize the coins on the screen”. When first encountering the Memorizing Mini Game, each user attempted to memorize the order of the coins in view. However, at the end of 8 seconds, they were asked not to identify the coins, but to report the amount of money on the screen. It seems the question should be rephrased.
While the idea of familiarizing kids with the values of money and giving them practice adding up coins seems appropriate for children ages 5-8, other concepts are introduced which may not be accessible to kids at this level of development. For instance, the concepts of interest rates and tax rebates seem a bit sophisticated. When asked if she’d like to put her money in the stock market, how could a player make an informed decision without some idea of how the stock market functions (which, in Mongro's Monstrous Money Math is completely randomly)? This poses yet another problem. A player may have answered every question correctly and collected the most money but not win the game because his stock market investments earned only 12% while another player earned 27% with her investments. This may be a true life lesson but one that a 7-year-old may have difficulty comprehending.
Installation of this application is a bit more complicated than it is for many programs on the market as there is not an install button. Program navigation is very straightforward, as long as the user is a fluent reader. There is a help button that tells how to turn on and off the music and how to go back to a previous screen. There is also an on-disc manual.
Mongro's Monstrous Money Math is not a terribly impressive program, disappointing since its title sounds so promising. Although the fanciful creatures are engaging, the premise is not inspiring, and the format lacks imagination. Most importantly, however, the concepts are not consistent with the targeted age level, and the absence of pictures of real coins robs the game of much of its educational value.
PC: Windows 98, Me, XP .return to top of page
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