Making Learning Multiplication Tables Fun

Duncan is at that age (in third grade), where he needs to know all his multiplication tables (upto ten) by the end of the school year. Some of them he's mastered, but there are some numbers that he's still struggling with.

It's not the most fun thing to do. Mostly it's a memorization exercise. I'm sure that administering a short sharp electric shock for every wrong answer would quickly solve this, but this practice seems to be frowned upon in most schools.

Time to find a better way.

Lynea went to the BigBrainz web site, where they have a great "game" called Timez Attack (they just love those extra Z's).

It's set in a Doom/Quake/Pick-Your-Favorite-First-Person-Shooter type 3D world with superb graphics. You are a little green guy. You walk around, find keys, unlock doors and get given simple multiplication questions. Snails pop into existence. (I've seen those snails somewhere before, but I'm blanking on which game they were in). You run over them. You then fling them at a door where the multiplication question is displayed and you see the numbers in the question light up. You type in the answer. The door opens. A large threatening monster with a club comes out. It has another similar multiplication example on his chest. You have a few seconds to type in the answer. If you get it correct, the monster staggers back. If you get it wrong, the monster pokes you with the club and you fall over. Repeat this three or more times (depending on how many answers you get wrong). When you have answered enough times correctly, the monster falls over, disappears and leaves you with another key for the next door.

Every three doors, there is another type of door you go through, and another monster gives you a "pop quiz". You will get a random sampling of the multiplication questions that have already appeared.

When you've done all the numbers for the current level (you start with 2's, 3's and so on up to 10), then you climb up a long corridor, through a gate and meet the final monster for this level. If you correctly answer all it's questions, then you go on to the next level. For the ones you get wrong, you go back and practice just those again.

To say that Duncan was really into this is an understatement. He initially visibly tensed when he saw the first monster, but he shouted out the answers and I typed them in. I'm doing the typing as he still needs practice at that, and we just want to concentrate on his multiplication skills.

Overall, this is a tremendous learning environment. There is a free version for Windows, and you can pay money and upgrade to another version that has a couple of other levels (robots, lava, the sort of things that kids just love). $40.00 for that upgrade seems a bit excessive to me, so we'll just stay with the free version.

The downer was that this program doesn't want to work on Duncan's HP laptop. Apparently it finicky about the graphics hardware. I always thought these sort of programs could fall back to chunky slow graphics if you didn't have hardware acceleration in your computer. Perhaps I'm missing something. Anyway, it's running fine on one of my computers, and we are using that each evening. Doing one level a day.

There was also a link for a Pre-Beta Mac version, but unfortunately that's just a teaser of what the world will look like. After going through the first checkpoint, it just threw me back to the start of the game. No multiplication examples at all. (That's clearly marked on their web site, and their estimate for completion of the Mac version is only a month or so away, so it's not too bad.) It installed and ran just fine on my Powerbook, but refused to install on my wife's iBook. Again, it's presumably all graphics accelerator related.

After all of this, I'm hoping he's going to breeze through his future math multiplication tests at school. It would be even better if we can get his teacher to dress up as a monster, continually threaten his with a club whilst playing loud thudding music at a fast tempo, but somehow I don't think she'll go for that.

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