Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 2 Review
Posted by Dom Liddle
Do the math
For many years, even before the heady days of Mario is Missing, gaming has given something back to the community in the form of educational titles. Whilst rarely excellent in the traditional entertainment sense, they aim to integrate fun challenges with learning, thus creating the edutainment sub-genre. Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 2 leans far more toward the educational side – there's very little "game" involved here, besides a few bonus mini-games. The majority, of course, is concerned with mathematical problems.
You are first introduced to the strangest-looking vampire since Nosferatu, who, it so happens, wants to help you improve your math skills. After creating a profile it's on to the problems, with a mildly impressive selection of mini-games, though as this is just year two it stops short of division or multiplication. There are numerous twists on addition and subtraction here, with a system of achievements to keep the game going.
Every mini-game, be it simple addition, halving or doubling, is completed by clicking a box and writing the answer via an on-screen keypad. The interface is a bit fiddly, but it's simple enough to easily pick up. When these mini-games are completed, the player is awarded between one and three stars depending on how many given answers were wrong. The challenge, then, is to complete a three-star rating for every game, thus attaining bronze, silver and gold crowns and subsequently unlocking more bonus games. More importantly, though, the answers do not actually change until you get these medals. On the one hand, this is beneficial in realising why an answer is wrong, and could give a young player confidence in going on to the next question. However, it also limits the game; using a randomiser here would doubtless provide a longer, more unpredictable experience.
When these are exhausted, there are a wealth of bonus games – 28, in fact. These simply provide a more challenging version of the geometry problems from the main menu (drag and drop the shapes into the correct place), with the shapes now moving along a conveyor belt in and out of the screen while a time limit counts down. The games progressively increase in difficulty, rewarding repeat plays.
The presentation is actually a little poor, despite the mathematic vampire standing out like a sore thumb, who, for a tutor in a children's edutainment game, is used just enough. The graphics are a bit of a missed opportunity; the background consists of what is presumably meant to display squared paper, which comes off as quite a dull choice. The music is a little repetitive, but not so annoying as to jar with the rest. While the tutorial aspect has the slight chance of becoming annoying – the instructions, for example, are repeated word-for-word in certain games when you finish a similar problem – in the end, it's just enough of a helping hand. They will probably require explanation to a young player, however, as they can be a little unclear sometimes.
Despite a few flaws and an often mundane presentation, your child should find this program fun and educational. The initial stumbling block presented by an educational game is whether your child will genuinely find it entertaining, which shouldn't be a problem here. There's a wide enough variety of problems to make this a useful and lasting experience, with the bonus games providing a little fun besides.