By Michael Hartley
Some time ago, a visitor to this site told me about an educational video game called Timez Attack. She told me it was wonderful for her kids, and hoped it would be helpful for my readers too. So, I bought the game, and wrote a review of it, posting it to this site. You can read my review of Timez Attack here. Timez Attack is a real 3D game made by experienced game designers. The makers claim it is used by over a million people. You can visit their website at bigbrainz.com.
Now, more recently, I learned of another educational video game, also aiming to teach kids times tables - Arithmemouse. Arithmemouse is also a real 3D game produced by professional game designers. I decided that a review of Arithmemouse would be a perfect complement to my earlier review, and also decided to compare the two games side-by-side. You can also visit the arithmemouse.com website
So, this page compares Timez Attack and Arithmemouse on a number of points. Let's begin...!
Timez Attack is a real 3D computer game, made by professional game designers, that aims to teach kids their times tables. The main character is a miniature "Shrek".
Arithmemouse is a real 3D computer game, made by professional game designers, that aims to teach kids their times tables. The main character is a blue mouse in a spacesuit.
So far, so good! But if you're going to spend money, you need to know a few things - will your kids play the game? Will they learn from it? Let's talk about the first point first - What's it like to play these games? This is where we start to see a difference...
Timez Attack begins in a dungeon, and proceeds to a dragon's cave and a robot's lair - each moodily lit, with traps and monsters. The player's character - something like Shrek on a diet - displays anxiety when faced with math problems, and jubilation when the player gets them right. The music fits well with the overall (somewhat dark) mood. The character might die, which means the player must start again from the last checkpoint reached.
Arithmemouse begins at a spaceship landing zone, and proceeds to a series of indoor gardens - each brightly lit and brightly colored. If the player stops for a while, their character turns, smiles, and encourages the player on with a wave of its paw. The music (and the whole game, in fact) is more cheerful than that of Timez Attack, again, fitting well with the overall mood. The mouse never dies, and there are no threatening monsters.
So Arithmemouse is a more cheerful, colorful game. Which is more educational?
Timez Attack teaches kids to remember their times tables. When they have to answer a times table question, they must actually type it in. What's more, each question answered correctly will need to be answered correctly again, later, several times, with a time limit. This is perfect for pushing the facts into the child's long-term memory. The game does not teach the 0, 1 or 10 times tables.
Arithmemouse teaches kids to recognize the correct answers to times tables questions. Instead of typing in the answer, the player will be faced with a dozen or so possible answers. Choosing the correct answer leads to progress through the maze, the wrong one to a reminder of what they should have chosen and an opportunity to try again. There is less repetition than in Timez Attack, and kids are able to skip times tables they don't want to try.
In my opinion, both will help kids learn their times tables, though Timez Attack holds the kids to a higher standard than Arithmemouse. This means they'll have learned more when they finish, but also means they will find the game more challenging. Next, how much do the games cost?
Timez Attack costs $39.99 for a home-use license, $20 for a "deluxe" license which has more different scenery and will hold your child's attention for longer. There are special school licenses available, which must be renewed annually. There's also a free version, which teaches all the times tables that the full version does - however, the free version doesn't have the dragon's cave or robot's lair - the player is in the dungeon for the whole game, and will see the other levels advertised in the game.
Arithmemouse costs $9.95 for a home-use license - less than half the price of Timez Attack. There are special school license available, which must be renewed annually. The free trial version teaches only the two times tables.
Any other information?
Timez Attack was first produced in 2004, and over 5 years has been downloaded over a million times. I don't know if that includes the free version! It seems Timez Attack is also available in Spanish. It is available in Windows and Mac versions, and is about a 35-40 Mb download.
Arithmemouse was first produced in late 2009, so can't yet boast a million users! It runs under Windows - no Mac or Linux version yet - and is about a 30-35Mb download for the full version.
My recommendation : The cheery atmosphere of Arithmemouse, the lower difficulty level, and the fact that the 0, 1 and 10 times tables are taught suggest that the author was thinking of it as a first tool for times table learning. The darker atmosphere and greater challenge of Timez Attack suggest it is pitched at older kids. Therefore, my recommendation depends on where your kids are at. Ideally, I'd say to start kids on Arithmemouse from grade 1 or even kindergarten, and they'll have a huge advantage when they begin to meet their times tables in grades 2 or 3. Then, graduate them onto Timez Attack to firm up their knowledge of important times table facts. If you are on a tight budget, get Arithmemouse and the free version of Timez Attack. If you really must choose one or the other, remember that Timez Attack is better for learning, but some kids will find Arithmemouse more attractive.
Whichever you choose, you'll have a valuable learning tool on your PC that your kids think of as a cool 3D computer game!
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