Content and Methodology
The Learning Company's Interactive Math Journey follows a design patterned after their highly regarded Interactive Reading Journey title. In IMJ, users set off on a journey to meet the "mathmagician" by completing 25 learning activities. These activities encompass five math concepts: patterns and shapes, addition and subtraction, measurement, fractions, and multiplication, Each concept is covered in two levels of difficulty. In the first level, IMJ presents a read-along story that explains the concepts and offers opportunities for trying them out. This is followed by a more rigorous exploration activity, and then a short rhyming song to reinforce the concepts.
For example, in Patterns and Shapes, the first activity is a rhyming tale about symmetry. On every page of the tale, the user is asked to draw a line through a diagram that symmetrically bisects its contents. Incorrect answers result in funny noises; the right answer takes the user to the next page. The exploration activity which follows the read-along tale builds on the learning experience by having the user manipulate geometric shapes to create mirror images of drawings. These drawings are then assembled into a quilt, further emphasizing pattern replication and symmetry. "That's really cool," according to our nine year-old reviewer. "I'm going to do all of these." (To further enhance the hands-on experience, IMJ includes two sets of physical manipulatives. "These were great for my second child to use while waiting her turn to use the program," noted one parent.)
The second level skips the read-along explanations, and moves directly into the hands-on exploration of each concept, followed by an arcade-like practice game. Our parent reviewers wondered, "why was the explanatory step skipped in the higher level activities?" We quickly discovered the answer when we let our 5, 6, and 9 year-old reviewers try it out - they tended to get bored on the read-alongs, strongly prefering to "get at it." This worked fine - until the younger ones reached a new subject, like multiplication. There, the lack of an educational / explanatory segment led to frustration. "I just can't get the multiplication," one sad-faced 6 year-old confided. Our advice: recognize that younger children may not be able to complete the entire journey, or be prepared to help your child when they reach their limits.
Ease of Install / Use
Our reviewers reported no difficulties in installing IMJ on Macs or Windows-based PC's. On the Mac, installation was the typical "insert the CD, and click on the icon." On Windows 3.1 systems, the process was only slightly more difficult, due to the need to actually install components on the hard drive. Interestingly, although the manual says only 3MB of hard drive space is required, our PC installations resulted in over 7MB of space utilization.
Use was equally straightforward, with one exception. IMJ is designed as a hands-on, "interactive journey" that progresses from from simple to more complex problems. As a result, the default settings require a linear progression through the topics. Some of our more advanced users wanted to skip material which was too easy; some of our less confident math students wished to repeat certain segments. Both needs can be easily accomodated by the program, if you look in the manual.
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy Parent Value is SuperKids measure of how well a program grabs and maintains a child's interest. IMJ scored well on this measure. Our parent reviewers reported that their children were "surprisingly captivated" by this math program. A combination of good graphics and steady progression through short activities, made this a winner with our 5 to 9 year-old testers. One caution, especially with younger users -- be aware that they may hit a temporary conceptual wall that limits their progress on the journey. For example, our five and six year-old reviewers had never encountered multiplication before, and quickly became frustrated with IMJ when they reached that activity.
Children interested in learning about math, and not yet proficient in the subjects covered. Our parent and teacher reviewers reported valuable experiences by children across the entire recommended age range.
IMJ is one of the first math programs SuperKids has reviewed that actually teaches math concepts, as opposed to simply offering "drill and kill' practice opportunities. This program has an exceptional amount of educational material, carefully organized and presented.
|Operating System||Windows 3.1 or higher; Win95||System 7.0.1 or higher|
|CPU Type and Speed||486DX/25 or faster||68030/25 or faster|
|Hard Drive Space||7MB||100KB|
|Graphics||256 color SVGA monitor||256 color monitor|
|Audio||Windows-compatible sound card||n/a|