Personal Trainer

Sometimes I wonder how personal trainers feel – do they feel loved by their clients?  Feared by their clients?  Loathed by their clients?  I certainly hope not on that last one.  Personal trainers have their work cut out for them, that’s for sure.  How do you motivate someone to stay on task, enjoy the task and receive as much benefit as possible out of said task?  A tall order!

I face this challenge every day with Max and math.  It’s just not his thing.  We’ve been following the course of a living math approach and have thus tried to have fun with it.  Games, reading about math, learning about mathematicians, playing with logic puzzles, looking at groovy patterns in math – in essence, I’m trying to lay a foundation for math and show him that it’s not all that bad.  Many people my age probably grew up with lackluster and droll math experiences.  I still remember a lecture a math teacher was giving about vectors at the chalkboard when I was in 9th grade.  I walked out of that room wondering, “what the heck’s a vector?”  He didn’t put any pizzazz in vectors and I quickly lost interest.  What I needed was someone who was excited about math, someone who could convey that excitement, someone who could help me to see how creative math is.  I needed a personal math trainer.

Okay, switching gears here a bit, but bear with me.  Around here,  Max has to refrain from the use of any electronic devices for entertainment purposes until after dinner, or thereabouts.  Somedays I’m just not paying attention to the clock and he can pull a fast one on me.  I see some use (stress some) in the games he plays.  His coordination is admirable, he picks ideas and instructions up lightening fast, he has an urge to learn and studies the game manuals for information, and problem-solving prowess is definitely called upon when playing.  At least I can reason with the side of myself that doesn’t like the gaming trend.  There are some strong negatives, but I won’t get into that here.

A little light of possibility occurred to me the other day – how about putting the two together as an experiment?  Math, which he hates and his DSi, which he loves?  A quick search and I was hot on the trail for a good match.  It couldn’t be a game that placed time pressure on him – he freezes when this happens.  It had to be positive, gentle,  incremental and most of all, FUN.  I found it!  This is an experiment of sorts as I am still committed to the living math way of doing things; I did purchase this game to see how he reacted.

Day 1:  we were actually able to say the word ‘math’ today without triggering any banshee screaming.  I handed Max the game and he tore open the box to examine the contents, somewhat skeptically, I sensed.  Nonetheless he popped it into his DSi and in a matter of 30 seconds was taking the Daily Test.  Then…………..I couldn’t get him to PUT IT DOWN.  I’m not joking.  His little brain was clicking and clacking over multiplication, division, subtraction and division in fun little challenges.  The little professor guy on the screen jumped in often enough with words of encouragement to keep him going.  I heard Max murmuring to himself as he ran figures in his head.  The music in the background was happy sounding, upbeat and only slightly annoying.  He played it in the car while I got groceries.  He played it all the way home.  He tested his dad when he got home.  He tested me.  He went to bed with it and played it until I threw a flag and made him stop.  He said, “I can’t wait to take the daily test tomorrow, Mom.”  I said, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?  Surely you are an imposter.  Tell me something only Max would know.”

Day one of my personal trainer experiment was a resounding success.  By that I mean he enjoyed himself while practicing math facts.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Here are a few other similar games I found, specifically for the DS or DSi.  Wii doesn’t have anything like this yet (I asked the guy at the game store, so according to him – he’s the reliable source I’m counting on for accurate information to pass on to you.  Maybe he hates math, too.)  I did not investigate any other gaming systems.

Brain Quest is also available for grades 5/6

There are others, of course.  This is just a smattering.  Something I found to be intriguing – I had to go to four different stores to track down the Personal Math Trainer game.  There was one new copy available in the city we live in…….the next closest availability was in DENVER!!!  It just isn’t stocked!  Which says something, I think.  Most kids don’t walk into gaming stores with math on their minds :).


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