by Kathy Foster

SUBJECT AREA: Thinking/Reasoning Skills

FORMAT: Educational Game


COST: $69.95 (School Edition)

GRADE LEVEL: Grades 3 - 8

HARDWARE: Macintosh: 256 colors required, 8 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive (double-speed highly recommended), System 7.0.1 or higher, 13" or larger monitor.
IBM compatible: Windows, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 or later, 8 MB RAM, CD-ROM drive (double-speed highly recommended), 486/33 MHz or better, Super VGA, 640x480 (256 colors), Hard disk with 2 MB free, Mouse, Windows-compatible sound-output device.

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: This program is designed to help 3rd to 8th grade students develop a variety of problem-solving strategies they can use everyday. The games help students learn to identify and analyze problems, look for patterns and sequences, plan ahead, predict outcomes, eliminate options known to be incorrect, test hypotheses and break problems into smaller parts that can be solved individually.

DESCRIPTION: The program contains computerized versions of three popular games from around the world. The first, Go-Moku is a variation of Go, a popular Japanese game. In Go-Moku, players quickly scan the board and find ways to place five pieces in a row before the opposition. The first player to get five stones in a row - horizontally, vertically or diagonally - wins the game.
The second game is Nine Men's Morris which originated in Egypt but has also been found in the ruins of Troy, Sri Lanka, Stone-Age Ireland and in England, carved into cathedral pews. The game can be won in two ways: by capturing all but two of the opponent's pieces or by blocking the opponent from being able to move.
The last game, Mancala, is played throughout Africa, the Middle East and the South Pacific. In Africa, Mancala boards often reflect the handiwork of the tribal culture, and some are revered as religious artifacts. In this game, players own positions instead of pieces. Students use a range of strategies to put stones in the positions around the board. The game is over when all the stones are gone from one player's side of the board. Whoever has the most stones wins.

STRENGTHS: The program provides "strategy coaches" which players can click on for tips and alternative strategies. When the hyena in Mancala, for example, looks excited, he has a strategy hint to share. The program contains challenge levels which automatically advance as students win games. As they advance several levels, the screen changes to a new screen and a new opponent. Players can also choose their level of difficulty. One of the best features is the real-world videos. The program includes more than 80 video examples of how people from all walks of life use strategies to solve problems in their daily lives.

SUMMARY: This program is creative, fun, and best of all challenges the user to develop a set of strategies. Each game provides a variety of amazing graphics as well as audio feedback. The use of real life strategy segments works to emphasize the importance of strategies in everyday life, not just to win a game.
Kathleen Foster is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at Trenton State College.

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