Another week, another dose of edutainment. Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 3 arrives on DSiWare, allowing another generation of eager young pupils to indulge in some mathematics on their favourite handheld.
This title is, in form, identical to Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 2, which is no surprise as they were originally grouped together in a retail package. The structure of completing exercises and earning play-time in the Bonus Game is well-known and also makes perfect sense, providing some reward for mathematical endeavour.
We feel that endeavour is the right word to use for two reasons: content and difficulty. In terms of content, there are nine categories, each with three separate exercises to complete: this adds up to a substantial number of questions. The difficulty, meanwhile, takes a noticeable step-up to accommodate older pupils. Standard areas such as addition and subtraction return, with useful categories such as time and sums using money making an appearance. It all gets more challenging in the geometry and brainteasers categories, with grid puzzles in particular raising the bar.
The increase in standard is to be expected, though these seem like difficult exercises for a relatively young child, only exacerbated further by the mediocre communication of the problems. Once again, we’d advise that adults work through these exercises with children and be on hand to explain the wording of some questions, which really should be clearer. This title doesn’t adequately explain wrong answers or show workings, it merely highlights figures that are wrong and shows the answers after a few failed attempts. In this particular subject, the student needs clearer assistance and instruction.
Of course, the quest for three gold stars is for the purpose of earning play-time in the Bonus Game. Achieving a set number of gold stars will earn bronze, silver and gold crowns, which also unlock extra levels, meaning that a pupil will need to master all exercises to see the whole game. On this occasion, the reward is a grid puzzler: a lot of tiles of different colours need to be matched in groups of three or more. This is done by intuitively drawing between matching tiles with the stylus, with potential for combinations that run into double figures. There are quite a few levels once crowns are unlocked, with each requiring a set number of combos within a time limit. With bomb and rainbow special items thrown in for a bit of variety, this is a relatively challenging and stimulating mini-game.
The overall presentation of this title, as expected, suffers from the same drawbacks as all of its predecessors. A bland colour palette, inactive mascot and lack of visual panache are combined with repetitive music, making it another unappealing entry in the series. As mentioned earlier, the visual feedback for incorrect answers is scarce, despite this subject above all others needing instructions and workings to help the pupil learn. Overall, it’s another example of minimal presentational effort letting the educational content down.
Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 3 provides a noticeable step-up in challenge, a high volume of exercises and a reasonably stimulating Bonus Game. Once again, however, this series doesn’t do enough to provoke interest or get the most out of its young students, with dull presentation in dire need of improvement. It’s another pass mark, but without distinction.