Edmark's MindTwister Math
MindTwister Math is an excellent software choice for a classroom with few computers. Students can use the program individually, but it is designed for use by two or three students at a time. There are four levels to MindTwister Math: Mind Twinge, Cranium Cramp, Brain Sprain, and All-Out MindTwister. The topics are drawn directly from the average third grade curriculum, so of course there are second and fourth grade overlaps.
Within each level, students play a series of games. There are three competitive challenges and a fourth cooperative game. The graphics are slick and glitzy, but they don't overwhelm the math concepts. Introductory sequences are mercifully brief. Once students know how to play, they can bypass the instructions using the space bar.
The challenges are deceptively simple but are strategically aligned with the NCTM standards. In "UFO's," flying answers must be selected only if they fit a rule. Students utilize the following skills: categorization, using Boolean logic, spatial visualization, analogy-building, units of measure, comparing fractions, identifying missing digits and operation signs, 2D and 3D shapes, and pictorial representations of multiplication facts.
The "Get a Clue" game doles out information so students can eliminate wrong answers in a step-by-step procedure - a great test-taking skill. They also practice "greater than" and "less than," decimals, telling time, place value, odd and even numbers, and skip counting.
During the "Cooperation Break," students must work together to collect numbers in a "Pac-Man" style game. In doing so, they develop the following skills: rapid calculation, planning, comparing critical attributes, identifying multiple solutions, and reviewing computational facts.
In "Totally Twisters," students are presented with problems that explore patterns, calculation, comparing attributes, using models, fact families, coins and bills, estimation, perimeter, the number line, story problems, and mental math. Some reproducible teacher materials are also available so that the concepts can be discussed away from the computer.
There are few teacher options. Students with special needs can utilize a different type of input device. Otherwise, there is little management control. Student data is not available. Still, MindTwister Math is excellent in its range of concept presentation in a format students enjoy. A word of caution, however: the competitive nature of the game can be difficult if students are grouped heterogeneously. Because points are awarded for quick, correct answers, slower students do not fare well. Cooperative and coaching strategies are fine in theory - but they get lost in the glitz of bells, buzzers and congratulations to the winners. Best to group students evenly, if possible.
My fifth grade supportive students enjoyed the program very much, although they had trouble transitioning between competitive games and cooperative action. It took them a while to learn that pounding the keys and screaming at each other was not going to raise either of their scores - not a bad lesson in itself! They also had a bit of trouble understanding that the program only responds to the keyboard, no mouse. Given more time, I believe they will become more adept. While using the program, they were fully engaged in answering each question. Every student asked if they could "play" again.
Elementary Technology Coordinator
Elkins Park School
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.