Content and Methodology
Unifix Software is a computerized version of the popular manipulatives commonly found in pre-K through fourth grade classes. "Manipulative" is the word educators use to describe physical objects that kids use as they learn to correlate numbers with quantities. Unifix cubes have been around for three decades, and after fingers they are among the most popular manipulatives used in schools. These many colored cubes can be easily snapped together by little hands, and arranged into sets and patterns, and used to physically illustrate addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
The computer version offers an electronic clone of its plastic parents, complete with the clicking sound they make when assembled or disassembled. And just like the original, its value is more a factor of how the teacher makes use of it, than from any inherent learning structure. Unifix Software is basically a toolkit that allows the user to manipulate on-screen cubes.
This toolkit includes 12 colors of cubes, grabbers, erasers, and splitters. In addition, the software offers what the plastic cannot: the ability to display the numbers associated with quantities of cubes. For example, the program can be set to display the number of cubes in a rod, in a set, or on the screen. A student can therefore observe the physical change in quantity when a cube is added or removed, and see the associated numbers change at the same time. This helps young children grasp the relationship between the concrete (the collection of objects), and the abstract (the number representing the collection).
Ease of Install / Use
Unifix installed without difficulty in our reviewers' machines. Three floppy discs are involved, but total loading time is short.
Our parent and teacher reviewers differed on the quesion of ease of use. "This was a great way to introduce the kids to math concepts on a computer, without resorting to math facts drills," noted one teacher. "The trick was to first think up a set of exercises that would help them intuitively grasp the relationships between the physical cubes they had used, to these on-screen representations, and then to make the link to numbers." Our parents, however, found this to be their greatest obstacle. "The program is totally unstructured - it doesn't pro-actively teach, drill, or demonstrate anything without some planning on my part. I didn't know what to do with the program..."
Proxy Parent Value
Proxy parent value is SuperKids' measure of how well a program grabs and holds a child's attention. Unifix Software received mixed marks on this measure; with teachers and parents who took the time to plan an interesting exercise, it scored well. If no planning took place before use, most reported their children prefered to "play with the actual plastic cubes."
Unifix is best suited for children familiar with the physical version and ready to begin working with numbers, and supported by a parent or teacher's planning.
This program does an excellent job of bridging the conceptual gap between the concrete and the abstract, when used as part of a structured plan. But if you don't have the time to use this program with your child, it's not for you.
|Operating System||not available||System 7.0 or later|
|CPU Type and Speed||n/a||Any Mac|
|Hard Drive Space||n/a||4MB|
|Memory (RAM)||n/a||3MB Free|