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Fractions with Professor Von Strudel

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Jul 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Micrograms Software, 9934 North Alpine Rd., #108, Machesney Park, IL 61115; Phone: 800/
338-4726; Internet: http://www.micrograms.com/.

Price: $30—individual titles. $42—school pack of two licenses. $110—lab pack. $695—network/site license. At the time of this review, the company was offering a free Micrograms Software Showcase CD or a free 2-month network/site license preview of most of its titles.

Audience: The publisher recommends grades 2-6.

The reviewer finds that parts of the program are probably too difficult for 2nd and 3rd grade, and the animation may not work as well with 6th grade.

Format: CD-ROM (Win/Mac): multimedia, animation, sound.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows systems: Pentium level, Windows 95/98/NT/2000/ME/XP. The network Windows version runs on 95/98/ME and NT/2000/XP.

Macintosh systems: Macintosh Power Macs, iMacs, eMacs, and other G3s and G4s using OS 8 through OS X Native.

Both platforms require appropriate standard sound cards and CD-ROM drives. Good headphones are necessary in classroom or lab settings, as sound is crucial to successful use of the program.

Description: Fractions with Professor Von Strudel provides a tutorial approach and a basic introduction to fractions.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The single station version I used was easy to install and involved simply clicking "Install Program" after the Autostart function had opened the CD-ROM. After installation, the CD-ROM is required to run the program. Note that network versions are available. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: I've used Micrograms software for a number of years for reading and math drill and practice. Fractions with Professor Von Strudel is intended to be more of a systematic tutorial program than some Micrograms software, but it has the same pleasant quality, look, and sound.

The program gives students a basic introduction to fractions and builds on what they learn—from recognizing  1/4 to dividing with mixed numerals. Professor Von Strudel offers carefully guided practice; most activities offer tutorial help in which the professor clearly explains the concept or method needed in the selected activity.

Topics include an introduction; equivalent fractions; greatest common factor; prime and composite; reduce to lowest terms; improper fractions; mixed numbers; least common multiple; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions; decimals and percents; and word problems. The word problems are intended for use after all of the other sections of the program have been successfully completed.

Professor Von Strudel is a balding individual with a wild fringe of white hair and a lab coat. He appears in a futuristic-looking laboratory with a blackboard and a cat and uses a clear and pleasant voice as he works with students. He is rendered in animation with a kind of claymation look to it; the animation is very nicely done.

In general, students are guided through the program in a linear fashion as concepts build on one another. However, teacher options enable the selection of activities targeting specific objectives for specific students or classes, as needed. The program includes a total of 12 activities with multiple levels and 30 tutorials.

While the professor is explaining an activity, students have access to some of the tutorials through the Review function. Students also have access to the Review function if they make too many errors while practicing. The students may press the letter T at any time to have terms explained; an online calculator can be accessed by clicking the letter C. Mental math ability doesn't become an issue, unless desired.

The prime and composite numbers activity provides a good example of the way the program activities work. In this activity, the professor defines and shows examples of prime and composite numbers, then provides tips about finding factors. As students practice, they are given helpful hints and incremental help steps. If a student makes a number of incorrect responses, a detailed audio/visual Help page comes up. In addition, students can always select the Review feature for help.

Professor Von Strudel keeps extensive records. By clicking on the summary in the menu bar, teachers—or students enabled by a teacher—can access records that can be viewed or printed.

Records are kept in 32 data categories sectioned into three sets. Results from the latest session can be viewed, as can the last five sessions or cumulative work. Class records are also kept and viewed on a summary page.

Class files are created from the Teacher Module; a password is required. The program can be used without creating class files, but the results aren't saved. Most activities follow the same format.

In general, this is an excellent program. The art, animation, and sound are excellent; the instructional sequence is logical; and the explanations are clear and easy-to-follow. This program really should help students improve basic skills, as the publisher claims.

My only reservation isn't really the fault of the software. Like most Micrograms products, this program includes a little humor to act as a motivator and make the program more fun. However, given that this is a tutorial, the program has less of a game quality than drill and practice software. To take full advantage of the material, students will have to bring with them a desire to do well. In other words, this excellent program requires a little more self-motivation than some. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Fractions with Professor Von Strudel is relatively easy to use. Teachers newer to computer use may need to read the instructions carefully, especially when using the Teacher Module. The instructions to students make student use relatively easy as well. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is good. An excellent Technical Support section is available on the Web site. Telephone support is available as needed at 815/877-4455. The CD installation places a very good 12-page PDF on the computer. Good online help also is available, if needed. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Fractions with Professor Von Strudel is an excellent program for supplemental fraction work at home or in 2nd-5th or 6th grade classrooms. It can be useful with all students, but may be especially helpful for those who may need extra work. This is an excellent program for home use as well. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, Elementary Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Central Elementary School, 509 S. Broadway, Hastings, MI 49058; 616/948-4423; charliegd@iserv.net.


 
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