Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Product Review: The Quarter Mile Math

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A frequent reader of Olive Plants recently commented that reading this blog has become dangerous because she wants to buy everything that I review. Well, prepare yourselves because The Quarter Mile Math from Barnum Software will not be an exception!

The Quarter Mile is a comprehensive mental math practice software . When I say "comprehensive", I really mean it. I received the Deluxe Version to review which includes Level 1 for grades K-3, Level 2 for grades 4-6, and Level 3 for grades 6-9.

These are the categories covered:
  • Numbers and Letters
  • Whole Numbers
  • Fraction Introduction
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percents
  • Estimation Preparation
  • Estimation
  • Integers
  • Equations
Within each of the categories there are several specific topics covered, too many to list here. In fact, there are over 300 different topics and over 70,000 math problems in all. For little ones, there's basic keyboarding, counting, and skip counting. For those who are little more advanced, there's addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There's also computing fractions, finding percentages, and even pre-algebra. Still, this description does not do the product justice. The progression of skills is so good and so thorough. It's no wonder that The Quarter Mile Math is used in Sylvan Learning Centers in the United States and Canada.
How The Quarter Mile Math Works

The concept is simple but effective. The student can choose to play as a car racing along a six-lane road or as a riderless horse galloping through a meadow. He picks a topic and a race screen appears where he is the car or horse to the far left. The cars or horses that race in the other five lanes are the student's five best previous races, replayed exactly as they occurred. Therefore, he is racing himself and constantly trying to improve.
When he begins the race, problems appear on the screen one at a time. When he answers correctly, his car or horse accelerates, getting him to the finish line faster. If he answers incorrectly, he is given two more tries and then shown the correct answer. After he types it in, his racer accelerates. He is never penalized for an incorrect answer. Instead, he always has the opportunity to do better, go faster and accomplish more. The program recognizes the slightest improvements, even some that would not be humanly detectable, making it possible for him to recognize and enjoy every bit of progress he makes.

This creates an environment of self competition and positive reinforcement where math, and not gaming, is the focus. The student is not distracted by having to steer the vehicle or horse or by obstacles, secondary tasks, or other gaming elements. He moves his car or horse solely by solving math problems. Though he is given as much time as needed to answer each problem, the intrinsic desire to beat his previous times kicks in, and he is motivated to solve an incredible number of problems in a very short time. He is able to track his progress, too, through a top 5 scores average. When each race ends, he is shown his current time, his rank in the race, and his top 5 average. Mom can easily access his records and chart his progress, too.

Deluxe version users can race each other in tournaments from separate computers and locations. Standard CD users can hold tournaments as well. They would be required to take turns on the same computer or record and compare scores from different computers.

How We Use The Quarter Mile

Each day I dedicate one hour to math so I can work one-on-one with each of my sons. While I tutor one, the other works independently, usually on math memorization. The Quarter Mile Math is exactly what I needed for this.

First, the self competition really is very motivating. I have to pull my boys away from the computer when their independent time is over. I have never had to pull them away from flash cards or worksheets. In fact, keeping each boy on-task and from interrupting my one-on-one time with his brother has been a real chore in the past. But not with The Quarter Mile. Instead, I hear requests like, "Please, mom, just a little longer. I came in 2nd that time and have to get 1st place again."

Secondly, most skills that they need to master are contained within the three levels of The Quarter Mile Math. I say "most" just because I have not compared the topic list to the scope and sequence of every grade level, K-9. There is so much included on The Quarter Mile that I cannot imagine there being any gaps. This means no more searching for activities to fill the independent study block. It is all at our fingertips now.

Finally, there is not a predetermined order as to how the topics must be completed. I can have each boy solve problems that match his current area of study. For instance, one of my sons knows most of his multiplication tables really well but is still having some trouble with the 6's. He did not have to work through the 1's, then the 2's, then … until he finally got to the 6's. He started where the need was the greatest. However, if I want him to work on previously mastered skills for the sake of upkeep, I have that option too.

What are the cons?

I really could not find any. I imagine if I were the reader of this review, I would wonder if the newness would wear off and if my kids would lose interest in The Quarter Mile before they complete all the topics. My boys' interest did not diminish even a little in the month we used it. Being able to switch topics kept up their interest as did racing and self competition. They were very determined to beat their records.

How can you get The Quarter Mile Math?

You can buy the Standard CD Version with six different programs to choose from, each a one-time purchase ranging in price from $39.95 to $89.95. Or you can buy the Deluxe Version like I received which includes all the products offered. The subscription cost for the Deluxe Version is only $2.95 per family per month, $19.95 per family per year, or $34.95 per family for two years. There is an unconditional, 30-day money-back guarantee on all Barnum Software products. You can compare the two options here.

I encourage you to visit their website and watch "The KEY to The Quarter Mile Math video". In it, Barnum Software president, Christopher Wright, introduces the product and explains the value of self competition. You can also visit their homeschool section and read tips on getting started, look at their printable progress chart which lists all the topics covered, read more about tournaments, and more. There is also a free demo download for you to try.

I give The Quarter Mile Math two enthusiastic thumbs up and encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful learning tool. I am truly amazed by the amount of math covered for the price. Never again will I spend as much as $35 for software that covers a single topic, like multiplication, when we now have everything we need in The Quarter Mile. I intend to continue our subscription when our current one expires, so let me know if you purchase the Deluxe Version, too. Maybe we can hold a tournament!


argsmommy said...

Ha! I don't have to buy this one because I already have it. : ) We do not have the Deluxe version though, so sadly we won't be able to join you in a tournament.

monstersaurus19 said...

I just ordered the Level 1 CD tonight. Daddy, son, and I are so excited for it to arrive. Thank you so much for the recommendation.