A variable verdict

If Number Rumble had a few more tools for tracking the player's progress, we'd be much less hesitant to recommend this math game for 6- to 10-year-olds as an iPhone learning application.

We hate to say it, but LeapFrog Software bounded over a step or two while trying to get this kiddie math game off the lily pad. While attractive and cheerful, this basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division equation-maker aimed at 6- to 10-year-olds is too simplistic for the kids we know who fall into the age range.

Number Rumble gives three ways to learn and test addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. In the Learn It mode, you can spin the wheel to choose two numbers on both sides of a single math function and let the game fill in the rest. In quiz mode, you choose the problem type and fill in for the question mark. The addition and multiplication problems are traditionally laid out, with the player choosing the correct answer. Subtraction and division modes ask you to fill in a variable that precedes the answer, which will likely either prime kids to think algebraically, or pitch them into deep frustration. (Either way, we think kids and parents should be able to choose the layout.) The final, random quiz mode serves all types of problems until the player decides to stop. A correct answer gets you encouragement, an incorrect answer gives you a second try, and two wrong guesses give you the right response. In both cases, your correct answer is usually a middle number in the multiple choice range supplied as a hint.

Were Number Rumble to have a few more tools for tracking the player's progress, we'd be much less hesitant to recommend it as a learning tool for young kids or for those requiring more help--like a set 10 problem quiz for each equation type in addition to the random quiz, a multiplication or division reference table, or a visual way for younger kids to arrive at an answer, not just through rote memorization or elaborate guesswork. Without these, Number Rumble seems like, for many kids, not much more than a really cute version of a $3 calculator app.

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