When it comes to math, it isn't always easy to get kids very excited. Visions of fractions and division problems usually make students overcome with fear any time the teacher mentions the subject.
The truth is that math really can be fun. Much of math may be memorization, but the process of memorization doesn't have to be boring. In fact, many types of arcade games lend themselves to the act of memorization.
David Bruce is the owner of the website Tux4Kids, and he created "Tux, of Math Command"
with the premise that memorizing math problems can be a whole lot of fun. By presenting math challenges in an arcade-style format, Bruce built an entire game application for the home or the classroom.
Playing Tux of Math Command, kids will be motivated to memorize the correct answers to math questions so that they can achieve higher levels in the game and get their name in the top score list. Another nice feature kids will love - the graphics are pretty cool too.
While Tux of Math Command may not win any awards for cinematic computer animation or for an award-winning storyline, it does accomplish the goal that it sets out to complete. That goal is attracting kids with fun, high-quality graphics and an addictive game, and getting them excited about math.
From the main menu, you can either play a solo game, link up with friends in a network game (played locally), play with other friends on the same computer, or play the highly-addictive and very fun arcade game called Factoroids.
Playing Solo Games
When you click on the option to play the game alone, you'll see a list of four options. These are four styles of game play. It's important to understand that Tux of Math Command is generally built around the core activity of answering math questions. The options offered on this page are actually offering different methods for how those math questions are presented to the student.
In one case, there will be somewhat of a storyline where you have a series of math questions to get right before you've completed a specific mission. In other cases, such as the arcade game mode, you will work your way through levels as waves of math questions move faster and faster down the screen.
The Game Screen
In almost every game format, the game play amounts to a screen where you must answer the falling math equations correctly. As you type the answer, your guess shows up in the red LED numerals at the bottom of the screen. If you're done typing your answer, just hit the "Enter" key and a laser beam will shoot from your control station.
If you answered correctly, the laser will strike that target (the math equation), and destroy it. Answer incorrectly, and the laser will shoot out into space and miss the target entirely.
Correct and Incorrect Answers
After each wave of "attacks", if you answer enough of the equations correctly before your penguin's igloos are all destroyed, you'll advance to the next level. Usually, what this means, is that the background will change to a new (usually spectacular) graphic, and a cloud will appear over one of the igloos and repair it with some sort of magical snowfall. Finally, the next wave of math problems will start dropping from the sky.
Beware, each wave of equations drops faster and faster, headed straight for your penguins and their protective igloos. Miss too many math questions, or wait too long to type your answers, then the equation will hit the ground and put your penguins in peril. After a while, you'll lose all of your shields and the game will end.
Choosing mission mode will present students with an interesting story to motivate them to perform well. After a while, students will be working so hard to protect their penguins from various dangers that they'll completely forget that their actually learning math!
If students want to play Tux of Math Command in arcade mode, there are difficulty levels that will suit just about every math student. In Space Cadet, even the youngest students will be able to play by typing the number that drops from the sky. Numbers drop faster in each level, making this an excellent way to learn how to type numbers on a keyboard quickly.
The higher levels of the arcade game are almost identical to the regular mission mode described above, except there are more levels and a "top score" board where kids can compete to get their name on the board.
Configuring the Game
If you want to make use of the "Custom Game" option, you can edit the options.txt file in the application directory and configure your own game options. The selections that you enable or disable in this text file will control the behavior and game play of the online math game when you select "Custom Game" from the main menu.
This is a pretty cool feature that most other educational games don't offer. The ability to customize your own game allows teachers to tailor a game to a desired level and using a specific style of game play that they know their students will enjoy.
Playing in Networked Mode
If you choose to play a networked game, it doesn't mean that you can play the game over the Internet by connecting to remote game servers. Networked game play in Tux of Math Command is a method you can use to connect two or more computers on your local network (or possibly over the Internet), to play the game against your friends.
Get the Highest Score!
The way this works is that one person needs to run the game server on their PC. Other players will click on "Join Game" and then type the IP address of the game server. Once everyone has connected, the game can begin. You will all compete with each other to get the highest score.
In my opinion, one of the best areas of this application is the Factoroids game. This game is based on the classic Atari game titled "Asteroids."
Just like in that game, you must control the space ship at the center of the screen and turn it in the direction of incoming asteroids. Blast away the asteroid with your laser, and it'll split in two.
How does this relate to math? You'll see that as you're blasting away the asteroids and they split in two, the number displayed on the asteroid will split in half as well. Your goal is to break down all asteroids to their smallest bits before they can collide with your ship!
Overall, Tux of Math Command has enough educational value so that teachers and parents can feel confident installing the game onto any child's computer. Kids will feel as though they are getting away with playing video games, while at the same time they'll be building math memorization through repetition, and developing important math skills that will last a lifetime.