NOV. 2010 - Improving Your Child's Math Skills With Fun, Educational Programs
How do you tell the difference between an online game that is a valuable educational tool and those that are merely fun? It may be difficult to assess the educational value of computer programs aimed at children – especially those aged 4 to 9.
"Parents may see a familiar cartoon character on a product and think that must mean it's a good game for their child," says Mickelle Weary, academic director of DreamBox Learning K-3 Math, a web-based math program. "But is it really educational? Or is it just fluff? It can be very difficult to know until you've already bought the software and your child has played it for a while."
You may allow or even encourage your child to spend a substantial amount of time on a website featuring her favorite cartoon characters (or even spend a lot of money on it), only to find that it's not very educational. Worse yet, you may also discover that the program doesn't challenge your child or hold her interest for very long if the software doesn't adapt to her skill level.
"With education budgets being slashed nationwide, many parents feel that supplementing their child's education is more important than ever," Weary says. "Kids are naturally drawn to technology, so fun, online programs can be a great way to supplement what they're learning in school."
Weary offers parents and teachers some tips for evaluating the educational value of a child's math game:
• Does your child's school use it? Or other schools? If so, that's usually a great endorsement that the product is worth trying.
• Is it web-based? Does it create a specific account for your child? Web-based software, like DreamBox Learning K-3 Math, is more likely to offer individualized instruction than older generation CD-roms, and certainly provides more feedback than a workbook.
• Does the game adapt as your child's skill level and needs change? The best products start out by assessing where each child is developmentally in his or her math skills, then adapt all aspects of the game experience to match the child's needs. And as the child learns more, the game evolves to present challenges that keep pace with the child's abilities and interest level.
• Does the game teach conceptual understanding of new ideas or is it simply a fun way to practice math facts?
• Is it interactive and engaging? The product should be fun as well as instructional. Making education fun is a great way to get kids to keep coming back for more. Children will be drawn to products that encourage them to interact and affect the outcome of the game.
• Does the game give the child freedom of choice? Kids will be more engaged if they can direct how they play and choose what to do within the game. A good educational game should offer children options for how to progress at their particular skill level.
• Are parents able to track their child's progress through the game? Look for a product that provides parents the ability to generate detailed reports on their child's progress. Not only do these reports give parents a snapshot of what their child is learning and how effective the game is, they can be shared with children's teachers to help focus on areas of strength and challenges.
• Is the game credible? Has it earned recognition from educators and parents alike? For example, DreamBox Learning has received many awards, including the Parents' Choice Gold Award and the AEP Golden Lamp Award for Technology Innovation from the Association of Educational Publishers, and is used in schools all over the U.S.
Log on to www.DreamBox.com to learn more or for a free trial of this math product for kids.