For Maestro and Chef, the decision on which math program to use in their earliest years came easily. We used a program that fit in with how I wanted them to learn their facts. Bruiser has struggled a little bit more with the same program and I've been looking around for ways to help him reinforce the basics.
It seems I am not the only parent out there who felt like her child needed a fun way to get the facts down cold - enter Math Rider, a computer-based math facts game that covers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division through a series of "Quests."
I've tried other computer-based programs in the past, and the kids have really enjoyed them, and some of the facts even stuck... a little. Now I don't know what it is about Math Rider, but somehow it is the one that seems to be sticking the most, and getting them to a point where they're driven to know more. THAT I like!
Each rider is given his or her own account. I made two accounts: One for 8-year-old Bruiser, and one for 4-year-old Buttercup. I really like that the graphics are super-simple, think Nintendo-64, at best, with just a rolling background scene and a little animated horse riding across the front of the screen, jumping over posts if the child got the answer right. If the answer is incorrect, or they didn't push the "return" button, the horse stops at the post and the problem is read aloud. You can even choose whether it's read in British or American accents at the beginning of the program (we chose British, just for fun!)
As the child progresses, points are displayed at the top for how many were correct, how many were missed, etc. and once they reach the end, they're given the opportunity to see how far they progressed along the path of the quest. (My kids get very excited about seeing their progress, by the way!)
The real test of a game of this sort though, is, at the end of the day, how well do they retain the knowledge presented? And in the case of Math Rider, it is worth the $47 cover charge to play the game. Buttercup had a little difficulty grasping the overall concept at the beginning, but with a bit of coaching and guidance from Big Brother Bruiser, she was soon getting more correct than she was getting wrong, and was able to talk to me about it later with accuracy. Bruiser showed similar results in his recall.
Math Rider works on both Mac and PC platforms and retails for $47 and includes a 30-day risk-free guarantee.