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Learning with TuxMath

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Software

Math has been a very frustrating experience for my son. He has no trouble grasping the concepts; he performs well on tests; but homework has been an incredible chore — he hits some kind of wall and spends hours on getting just a few problems done. He’s easy distracted — or more accurately, very good at coming up with displacement activities to avoid facing the problems. So I spent some time watching him at work and keeping him on task.

What I noticed is that the part that was killing him was simply trying to remember basic math facts. He’d spent as much as 30 seconds remembering what 8 × 9 was or even 3 × 4. Clearly, the real problem was foundational. The traditional solution to this is to drill with flash cards, but that takes discipline to keep up with. A computer, of course, has no such failings. And that, in a nutshell, is what TuxMath is.

Tux of Math Command

The original TuxMath game is a kind of pastiche of the old “Missile Commander” arcade game — fireballs descend from the sky, menacing your igloos (in TuxMath, the buildings on the ground are igloos with tux penguins in them). Each fireball is marked with a basic math fact problem, and you have to type in the answer and press “enter” to zap the problem. In this way, you fend off the attack and save your igloos.

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