Nintendo

Personal Trainer: Math Review

Personal Trainer: Math Logo100-Cell Math is a method of practicing basic arithmetic using a 10X10 square grid similar to the multiplication table many of us learned with in elementary school. Developed in co-operation with Japanese professor Hideo Kageyama, Personal Trainer: Math allows users to practice at home or on the go while tracking their progress and increasing difficulty as needed.

The 100-Cell Math component and Practice Exercises included provide a great workout for those looking to sharpen or maintain their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills. The Daily Training aspect, however, fails to be as compelling as the Brain Age titles, leaving a package that feels functional yet incomplete. Read More...

When starting the software for the first time, users are asked to enter their name and which hand they write with using their stylus. The DS is held sideways when using Personal Trainer: Math, so left-handed users will have to flip the DS over.

Users are then greeted by a cartoon representation of professor Kageyama who explains the menu options. Much like Dr. Kawashima’s disembodied head in the Brain Age titles, professor Kageyama will greet users when they start the game, provide encouragement, praise for a job well done and kindly remind users when they’ve missed a day or two of training.

Selecting Daily Training from the menu will send users to a series of three quick test exercises.  These exercises start out using simple addition and subtraction problems that pretty much anyone can solve. Upon completion of each exercise, users are ranked according to how well they scored and how long the exercise took. After completing the three exercises, a simple check mark on a calendar is awarded to mark that day’s attendance.

An Early Daily Training ExerciseHowever, unlike the Brain Age or Big Brain Academy titles, there is no real weighing of that day’s results compared to days before it. Seeing a “Math Age” at the end of the daily training would allow users to better understand how, or if their skills are progressing.

For every five days attending the Daily Training users will advance a level to a maximum of 19. Progressing beyond level 19 will put users at “Master Level”. As users progress through the levels, the exercises presented in Daily Training become more difficult.

My real problem with this is that for a person like myself who is good at math to begin with, the leveling system moves far too slowly. It took a solid 20 days to reach problems that I found even slightly challenging. This is quite frankly boring and makes the daily training aspect feel pointless to me.

This problem is compounded by the fact that users can play any of the exercises in Personal Trainer: Math through the Practice Exercises menu at any time. All 40 of the software’s exercises are unlocked from the beginning.

The exercises start out with simple addition and subtraction problems. Along the way times tables for the numbers 1-9 will be done, users will be introduced to ladder addition and eventually users will be faced with the challenging missing-number multiplication.

It took me about three hours to complete the gauntlet of practice exercises, most with gold medal rankings. While I had fun doing this, it effectively ruined the Daily Training for me. Going from the brain-stimulating challenges of ladder subtraction and long multiplication back to elementary school level addition problems was simply not very fun or rewarding at all.

Adapting a user’s Daily Training level to the progress they’ve made in the Practice Exercises would have kept it interesting for intermediate to advanced users. The slow, simple progression of the Daily Training would be suited well towards younger users or those that struggle with day-to-day math problems.

100-Cell MultiplicationThe Kageyama Method activities included in Personal Trainer: Math are, without a doubt the highlight of the package in this reviewer’s opinion.  Within this menu users will be able to select either 100-Cell Math or Division Marathon exercises.

When selecting the 100-Cell Math option, users can choose to practice addition, multiplication or subtraction problems. They can choose to do 10, 30, 50 or 100 cells in one session and determine if they want to be presented with random problems or the same ones as their last session.

The Division Marathon functions in a similar way. Users choose from three levels of difficulty before selecting the amount of problems to challenge and whether they want random problems or not. The difference here is that the problems are presented in a traditional textbook style rather than the 100-Cell Math grid.

A 100 cell session usually takes me about three or four minutes, but the target time is two minutes. Trying to reach this time kept me practicing and coming back for more.

Personal Trainer: Math uses the Decuma Handwriting Recognition Engine, the same one as used the Brain Age titles and Personal Trainer: Cooking. While the recognition is typically good, I did have problems with the system getting 4’s and 9’s confused on occasion.

This software lacks the personality found in most of Nintendo’s other Touch Generations titles. Everything about the presentation just feels flat with little to distinguish it from the glut of training-style games offered by other companies on the DS.

Personal Trainer: Math would have been better if it had been “hardcore” math software without the guise of a casual training game. The 100-Cell Math is quite useful to practice arithmetic skills and would be a fantastic addition to an educator’s math curriculum. Such use would take genuine advantage of the software's included local wireless play for up to 16 players using a single cartridge.

The Daily Training aspect however, is of little use to those with intermediate to advanced math skills and progresses far too slowly to remain interesting or rewarding for very long, making it tough to fully recommend.

Positives:

+ 100-Cell Math is a Great System
+ Practice Exercises Can Be Challenging


Negatives:

- Daily Training Progresses Slowly
- Not Much Personality

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Game Forward score: 3/5

Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward

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Personal Trainer: Math (NDS) Quick Facts:

Genre: Edutainment
Developer: Shogakukan / Hideo Kageyama
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: January 13, 2009
Price: $19.99 US/CAN
ESRB Rating: E (Everone)