Math Blaster is an online world that incorporates problem solving and math into every aspect of the site. This browser-based virtual world is for kids ages 6-12 and incorporates age-appropriate challenges and math games. Math Blaster was created by the educational company, Knowledge Adventure, which also created the virtual world of JumpStart a site that is geared towards kids ages 3-12 and has thousands of educational games and activities. Math Blaster was launched a little over a year ago and provides a great way for kids to practice math skills at home. There is also a classroom version, which I think would be really neat for a teacher to use for math challenges or extra reinforcement.
I set up an account for two of my children and myself. When you sign up, you can create an avatar for yourself that is called a Blaster and become a cadet at the Blaster Academy. The idea is to complete arcade-style math challenges and missions to increase your rank and become a member of the Intergalactic Space Patrol. My daughter is a bit young for it so she hasnt explored much of Math Blaster, but the JumpStart world is perfect for her. My son, who is 7, is just at the bottom of the targeted age range. He found lots of games and aspects of the world that appealed to him and that fit his ability level.
Math Blaster Content:
There are a lot of great features in the Blaster Academy. One of the best things for my kids was the ability to make your own avatar by choosing a name, hair, eyes, mouth, etc. You can change these characteristics at any time, which is perfect for kids who want to try out lots of different combinations.
Another fun area of the Academy is the Monster Mutt Rescue where you adopt a larva, care for it in an incubator/Mutt Pad, and then train it.
As far as the educational games go, pretty much all of the games had a math component incorporated into the game. The player actually needs to be quite fast at answering and figuring out the problems to pass levels. There is a good range of difficulty for the targeted ages.
Some of the games are Ice Cubed, HyperBlast, Morph Madness, Alien Wrangler, Angle Attack, and Risk It.
Math Blaster Security:
As with any online world, security is a big consideration especially for children. It seems like there has been a lot of thought put into keeping the site safe and secure for the users and giving a lot of control to parents. Cadets can interact with each other through a chat component by choosing common phrases from a list. I didnt actually try out the chat, as I tend to want minimal interaction online and didnt want to be chatting with kids as an adult. Users cannot use their own names for their avatar but must choose from a list so theres no chance of their identity being revealed. Users can work together by helping each other on tasks or by caring for each others mutts. There is an option to add other cadets to your B. F. F. list in order to interact more easily.
Math Blaster -Ease of Use:
This was where I thought that there was room for improvement. I believe that the makers are still adding and fine-tuning this virtual world so there were often new things or changes each time I would try it out. It was also quite difficult to find out how to do something. Generally, the instructions for each game were clear, but there isnt really any place to look for further clarification about specific games or other questions within the Blaster Academy. There is a Math Blaster blog that really helps clarify how to use some features and what new things are being added. There is also a Game Guide, but it would be nice to be able to access it right from the game window.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the educational content and all the skills that users practice while playing the game. However, Im not too crazy about how much time needs to be spent to make progress in the game. It does ensure that there will always be more content for kids to work through, but I for one do not want my kids sitting on the computer for hours, even if it is educational. I will definitely encourage my son to use Math Blaster occasionally as part of a balanced approach to his education.