This piece of software for the Nintendo DS is designed to encourage users to develop mental maths skills through a series of daily tests and tracked scores. The ‘game’ is in the same category as the popular ‘Brain Training’ series of games but doesn’t have the variety of activities that are in these games. This was important as I wanted the consoles and games to focus on developing the chiildren’s numeracy skills. As well as this there are a number of practice tests to help the user between the daily exercises. I bought this for my daughter to use on her DS and when I saw what it acutally offered, I spoke to my supportive principal and we eventually purchased 10 DS systems with 10 copies of the game. These are available to our teachers for when they want to use them for their mental maths activities – specifically in smaller groups. They are also being used by our Numeracy support teacher to encourage children who attend her classes.
All but 4 of the children in our primary 5-7 classes have the Nintendo DS system in one form or another. This means that there is an interface available that the children do not need practice in (as well as the teachers!) as they have day-to-day experience. For those unfamiliar with the system, there are two screens – the bottom one being a touch screen that operates via a stylus. I felt that we had a ready-made attractive interface for the children that would also encourage participation.
The main issue was educating the parents in the use of the system and the software. It wasn’t simply ‘playing games’ as many of them feared. Surprisingly, many of them did have the DS and so were familiar with what it had to offer. Therefore, the integration of the system into school was easier than we had foreseen, thankfully.
The interface is straight-forward and very easy to navigate with the user being given three options at the opening screen – ‘Daily Test’ ‘Kageyama Method’ and ‘Practice Exercises.’
One thing I really like about the game is the option to create users (up to 3) and that it takes account of the user being left or right handed. In school, we created just two users and named them ‘left-handed’ and ‘right-handed’ meaning that the children just selected the user that reflected their use of hand to input their answers using the touch screen and stylus through handwriting recognition. This meant, though, that we do not record the users daily test scores or track development in tests. However, we feel that the daily practice tests are enough and it does leave one user per system for the children attending numeracy recovery classes if the teacher feels that she wants to use this feature.
As mentioned above, we do not use this in school but encourage the children who have the sytem at home to keep a record of their scores. It comprises of a series of daily ‘tests’ that are subsequently recorded and tracked as daily scores. Anyone familiar with the ‘Brain Training’ will know this scheme.
This consists of a variety of ‘cells’ – much like a tables hundred square where the operation is in the top left corner with appropriate numbers along the top and down the left hand side. The children then race against the clock to input as many correct answers as possible. This ranges from simple 10 cells through 30, 50 and eventually 100 cells for the children to tackle. This can be done and the scores recorded for classroom ‘league table’ or (which is highly popular) the DS consoles can link via their own wireless settings and the children can race each other to be first finished. You can imagine how popular this is with the children and we encourage them to participate against each other in this way.
This gets the biggest use in our school due to the large variety of tasks that can be practised. I have included a link below to the series of tasks that I distributed to our teachers.
The practice tests are arranged in a series of tabs and each one is timed. Recording this time in a spreadsheet is an excellent way for the children to track their performance in different areas as well as seeing practical data handling in action through the use of the spreadsheet. (I used this to great effect in the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Conference in Cape Town recently. It was fantastic to watch as adults got completely absorbed in trying to beat each others’ times and, so, be ‘top dog.’ Also, it was remarkable to watch how adults collapsed under the pressure of trying to recall their tables under the gaze of a watching audience! My children, in class, had a great time trying to beat the times recorded by adults from all around the world.)
The skills range from flash cards encouraging counting within 10, through number bonds within 10 and 20 to practice in repeated addition(up to 5 digits); tables recall and long multiplication! As you can see, a complete range of mental skills that can be used in the classroom and throughout the age range in school.
One point to raise is cost. We purchased original DS consoles that didn’t have the camera interface. There were two reasons for this – one was the issues being raised around children having unregulated access to the cameras that the DSi had. Secondly, the DS console was much cheaper for what we wanted! I see, now, that this can be picked up for as little as £50 second-hand.
I am also lucky to have a good relationship with my local GAME store and the manager there helped source the required number of games and consoles for me.
If you are interested, the link below will take you to the range of operations that can be used in the DS system. Please do let me know what you think!