Busytown Adventure Sharpens Basic Skills
Szadkowski, Joseph, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
In a world of ultraviolent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than flexing the cerebellum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word - cool.
Students up to the first-grade level can participate in the mathematics journey of Richard Scarry's Busytown Best Math Programs Ever (Simon and Schuster Interactive, $29.95).
This program created by Mr. Scarry, a children's author, combines 15 fun activities that teach a complete set of basic math concepts using curriculum guidelines and standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
The games revolve around the story of Busytown's Mr. Fixit, who has asked the familiar Busytown characters of Lowly and Huckle for their help. Players navigate through Busytown while completing a series of math challenges.
For example, at the hardware store children help customers in the garden center find the shortest birdbath, widest flowerpot, thickest chain and longest hoe. As challenges are completed, children are rewarded with one of the missing parts that Mr. Fixit needs to complete his Math Machine. When built, Mr. Fixit's Math Machine counts, divides, weighs and sorts shapes.
Skills learned while playing include counting, adding and subtracting, along with lessons in simple fractions, symmetry, money, time, multiplying and dividing, geometry and measuring. The progress report and parents information features allow for an easy check into the child's progress.
Extended play continues through activity replay and at the tangram drawing board, a place to experiment with shapes and write stories that can be printed out. Richard Scarry's Busytown Best Math Programs Ever is a hybrid CD-ROM and works with Macintosh and PC systems. * * *
What fan of Superman doesn't want to take on Lex Luthor, save Metropolis and return to the Daily Planet to write the front-page scoop next to the mild-mannered Clark Kent?
The Superman Activity Center (Knowledge Adventure, $20) offers children, ages 5 to 10, 13 games, puzzles and activities that will help hone thinking and problem-solving skills.
For example, Brainiac Challenge takes the player to Krypton, Superman's home planet. Players must help Jor-El (Superman's dad) crack a security code by repeating progressively more challenging sequences of musical notes. By completing a logic maze in a creativity center on Krypton, players can build a prototype of the rocket in which Superman first traveled to Earth.
Smallville is not only the rural town where Clark grew up with Ma and Pa Kent, but also a fun search game. In this hometown atmosphere, players will use Clark's X-ray vision to spot common neighborhood hazards such as exposed electrical wires.
In the big city, Metropolis, players can become cub reporters by writing and laying out the daily newspaper, creating color photos in Jimmy Olsen's darkroom and unscrambling word-search puzzles on Lois Lane's computer.
These and other activities are presented within a continuing story line featuring animated narratives. For added replay value, children can also choose to go back to favorite activities in any order and reset each to three levels of difficulty for a new challenge every time. The program is a a hybrid available for Macintosh and PC play.
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Girls ages 8 to 12 learn the tough lessons of adolescent life in Rockett's Tricky Decision (Purple Moon, $29.95). This third part of the friendship adventure series continues the story of eighth-grader Rockett Movado and her friends at Whistling Pines Junior High School.
Just as in the real world, girls will need to help Rockett decide everything from when to be cool to when to stick up for herself. …