Movie Review: LeapFrog Math Adventure to the Moon

Hi there!

Back in May, I had a chance to review LeapFrog Letter Factory with my youngest daughter who will be starting kindergarten in the Fall. We enjoyed exploring the alphabet with Tad on his musical journey. And we were on the lookout for more fun educational videos to help give her a head start and the LeapFrog brand has always provided.

Now we have seen the LeapFrog Math Adventure to the Moon, which focuses on counting, sorting, patterns, and simple addition. This time we have Tad and Lilly learning about counting for a school project. They have to come up with a collection of ten things, but they are having a hard time counting that high or figuring out what to collect.

For the next 30 minutes, the viewer, Tad, and Lilly are led on a long trip by their good friend Edison, the firefly. Edison has a few tricks up his sleeve to help the kids learn how to count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, and so on as well as other math-related skills. Where does Edison take the pair? To the moon of course! What would be more cool than to show a collection of ten moon rocks in class?

The LeapFrog team has once again put together a great lesson integrating fun songs, activities, and comic elements as well as a bit of suspense. The suspense part surprised me a bit, as it seemed a bit dark and destructive for a kindergarten-age audience. In this case, it was a space storm threatening to either suck everything in or blow everything away. Everything worked out alright in the end and the trio managed to save the day for some space aliens along the way.

I was impressed with the seamless integration of patterns into the story. The characters had to unlock the launch code to take off in their spaceship. And to do that they needed to figure out the pattern of shapes and colors and enter the right pattern to start the ship. It was a great way to introduce the pattern concept while also introducing the idea of a password or “launch code” to start something up.

My only complaint with this adventure was that it seemed too short. That however may have been because we were enjoying ourselves and didn’t want it to end. At 36 minutes long, it’s about the same length as LeapFrog Letter Factory so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

In addition to the main adventure, the DVD includes a few special features including a Sorting Game you can play with the DVD remote, a few sing-along songs, and the Alphabet Song from Let’s Go to School (another LeapFrog adventure).

If you’re looking for a good math-based educational adventure for your kindergarten-aged youngsters, LeapFrog Math Adventure to the Moon should be a great fit. I know we’re looking forward to finding other LeapFrog adventures to enjoy!

–Fitz

p.s. Click below to find this and other LeapFrog adventures at Amazon!

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Book Review: The Girls Know How Series: Smart Alex by Ellen Langas Campbell

Hi there…

When you were in elementary or middle school, did you ever feel like you didn’t fit in or couldn’t get interested in some of your school subjects? Alex seems to feel that way. Smart Alex is about Alex Martinez, a smart, sassy 7th grader flirting with trouble and spending far too much time in detention after school. She sits with the table of misfits in the lunch room – the only group she really identifies with. And over the course of the book, she begins to see her own potential and gain some confidence in her abilities.

Though I’m definitely not the target audience for The Girls Know How Series, I wanted to check it out for my eldest daughter who just turned 9. The goal of the series is to help girls see some of the career choices they may not normally consider – journalism, construction, or education are covered as the first three books of the series. It also aims to help readers see the benefits of working together, helping their communities, and applying what they learn in school to different areas of their lives.

Alex’ journey from a loner with low self-confidence and little direction doesn’t happen all at once in Smart Alex. She goes through stages, first discovering her talent for math and joining the MATHCOUNTS team. MATHCOUNTS is a program where a team of four students from one school competes against a team from a different school. During the competition, both teams are given a math problem. The first to buzz in and provide the correct answer gets the points. The team with the most points wins.

Once she joins the team and sees her potential, she tries to answer every question herself – never stopping to ask her team for input. Unfortunately she doesn’t get every answer correct, which causes her team to lose a few competitions. Over time she begins to see that teamwork has its advantages and that her teammates may have the right answer even if she doesn’t.

She also is asked to help a younger student, Ronna, with some math tutoring. Alex initially can’t find a way to help Ronna see the benefits of math, but she begins to see ways to approach the problem through Ronna’s love of baseball. Multiplication, fractions, percentages – all are used in computing batting averages and other important player statistics. And by showing Ronna how the math she used for baseball applied to other areas, she began to see the light.

What I really appreciated about the story was that it never stooped to preaching right and wrong to the kids. Through examples most students will encounter during their academic careers and social issues common to growing up, the lessons learned are much more organic.

My daughter read the book and said she really liked it. “It makes kids think they can do anything they set their mind to,” she said. And I agree. Through the application of effort, a little creativity, and the ability to learn, no task is impossible.

If you’re looking for a good series of books with solid lessons for ages 8 to 12, I would highly recommend you look for The Girls Know How Series. The three books in the series so far are Will Stephanie get the story?, Raising the Roof, and Smart Alex. Be sure to look for them at your favorite bookstore or library. Check out the website girlsknowhow.com for more information.

–Fitz

p.s. Look for these books at Amazon!

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TV Review: Super WHY! and Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure

Hi all…

Although I’m a parent of two young girls and watch a great deal of PBS programming, I have to admit that until now I’ve not seen any episodes of Super WHY!. I was informed by my daughters that they had seen this show previously, though this was the first I’d even heard of it. Now that I’ve seen it, I can see why it’s popular with their target ages of 3 to 6.

Super WHY! aims to boost literacy by providing multiple styles of learning using fairy tales as the medium. The four main characters or “Super Readers” include Whyatt Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Princess Pea, and Pig. These four characters either come directly from or are related to characters in popular fairy tales.

Like many of the shows aimed at preschool or pre-kindergarten-aged children, every episode follows a repeated pattern. A story problem is introduced and the Super Readers assemble to solve it by using alphabet, word, spelling, and reading skills. Each clue they find adds one or more letters to a series of blanks that will provide the answer they need.

In Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure, the Super Readers have to figure out why Red Riding Hood (or just “Red”) has no energy to play with her friends at the park. Could it have something to do with her sweet tooth?

To find the answer, they must explore the story of “Hansel and Gretel.” In the story, they meet the grouchy witch, who lives in a house of cookies and candy and also has issues with having the energy to play with the kids. Again, could the witch’s sweet tooth be causing the problem?

The Super Readers convince the witch to stop nibbling on her house and start snacking on healthy choices like carrots. Red and the witch both start snacking on healthy fruits and vegetables and drinking water instead of soda, which gets them back out and playing again.

At the end of the epsiode, they convinced the witch to change the story so she lived in a house made of healthy snacks instead of one of gingerbread and candy. I thought that was an interesting aspect of the Super Reader’s mission and a way to invest viewers more in the outcome of the show.

My daughters were hooked once the readers entered the story of Hansel and Gretel, which was great to see. And my youngest, entering kindergarten next fall, was following along with the alphabet and word aspects, while my 3rd grader had no issues with the spelling and reading aspects. However, I was pleased to see that it held both of their attentions for the duration of the episode.

I was entertained by the difference between the 3D graphics used for most of the show versus the flat characters used for Hansel, Gretel, and the witch once they were in the storybook. It made it easy to see who was important as they progressed through the story and learned more.

Overall, I think Super WHY! appears to be another great series on PBS. And “Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Snack” was a fun, educational way to teach kids why eating sugary snacks is bad and healthy snacks is good! Be sure to check it out with your preschoolers and kindergarten kids.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these SuperWHY! adventures on DVD!

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