Title: Operation Neptune
Overall Rating: C+
Source: The Learning Company http://www.riverdeep.net/learningcompany/
Playing Time: Varies- Over 1 hour of material
Software Release Date: 1998
Cost: $12.95 But
it now at NothingButSoftware.com
Operating System:
Windows 95/98/Me or Mac
Number of Players: 1 Player
Special Equipment/Facilities Needed: None
Subject Area: Mathematics (grade 4-8)
Objectives: Explicitly stated in manual: "Operation
Neptune helps players develop mathematical skills while engaging them in an
action-filled undersea adventure where they confront mathematics in a meaningful
way" (p. 5). "The program helps players realize that mathematics has
value in the world outside the classroom. It teaches important lessons in problem
solving and fosters mathematical confidence" (p. 5). "To carry out
their mission, players must solve a variety of one- and two-step word problems.
The problems provide an interesting and varied context for arithmetic operations
(adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing) with whole numbers, fractions,
decimals, and percentages" (p. 6).
Brief Description: This software program combines
an underwater game (manipulating a submarine, avoiding/killing enemies, picking
up objects, and exploring five zones of the ocean floor) with mathematics (solving
incoming problems with a calculator and identifying mathematical patterns).
Bright colors and sound effects add to the game. Students have full control
over moving the submarine; however, they have no control over the math problems.
When a math problem appears on the screen, students must answer it. If they
are correct, the game continues. If they are incorrect, they are penalized by
using one unit of oxygen and must attempt the problem again after a hint is
provided. If the second answer is incorrect, student are penalized in the same
fashion and the correct answer is displayed. The game then resumes.
Entry Capabilities Required: Mouse and keyboard
manipulation is a must. Also, a general math knowledge of : whole numbers, fractions,
decimals, percentage, measurement/time, graphing, sequences/patterns, and calculator
skills are necessary.
Rating: (1-5)
Relevance to objectives: (3) This
software does engage students in an undersea adventure where they confront mathematics,
but the "in a meaningful way" is debatable. After all, students can
randomly guess each math problem that they are confronted with. After being
penalized with two wrong answers, the game resumes. This software can "foster
mathematical confidence" if students achieve success while answering the
problems. The math problems are varied.
Provides practice of relevant skills: (3)
Although students are confronted with a variety of math problems, the majority
of the game consists of manipulating the submarine, rather than solving these
problems. Hints help students figure out the problems, which helps students
understand the reasoning behind problem. These hints are a great way to assist
students that are having difficulty, without simply providing the correct answer
immediately. This allows the students to rethink their method of solving the
problem.
Likely to arouse/maintain interest: (2)
Students are not bombarded with math problems. These problems are incorporated
into the game. However, manipulating the submarine through the sea gets repetitive.
This software lacks excitement and motivation to keep playing the game.
Likely to be comprehended clearly: (1)
This game seems confusing for elementary students. They must operate
the submarine, watch out for enemies, fire ink pellets, and preserve the oxygen
supply all at once. Then, they are confronted with math problems. Students may
wonder how these problems connect to the game. Abbreviations are also used to
solve some of the math problems. These are listed in Appendix B of the manual.
Some more challenging abbreviations that students need to know are: kJ (kilojoule),
PPM (parts per million), and PSI (pounds per square inch). These abbreviations
can be very frustrating for elementary students.
Technical quality (durable, attractive): (3)
The cd is durable and works on both Windows and Mac operating systems. The manual
is very detailed. Bright colors and sound effects are a definite plus for this
software. Overall, Operation Neptune does not seem that entertaining and attractive.
While it may be fun for students at first, it likely gets old fast.
Game: Winning dependent on player actions (rather than
chance): (4) Students can
clearly see that their manipulation of the submarine effects winning. Students
can see that their ability to answer the questions has a direct effect on their
ability to win (answer wrong and they are penalized).
Simulation: Validity of game model (realistic, accurate
depiction): (3) The game
covers a variety of math problems, but their relevance is questionable. This
math game would be difficult to use with any specific math unit or even grade
level.
Evidence of effectiveness (e.g. field-test results):
(2) This software does not seem to be an effect method of teaching
mathematical skills. The game focuses too much on the submarine portion and
the math problems are too varied (age level, type). I would not recommend using
this software in the classroom, simply because it serves more as a game than
an educational tool.
Clear directions for play: (2)
Directions are given throughout the game, but they are sometimes unclear. Students
are not told that the arrow keys are used to maneuver the sub and they are not
instructed on what all of the buttons on the calculator do. The manual is needed
for this.
Effectiveness of debriefing:
(1) At no point in the game do students reflect on what they
have accomplished and the method that they used. They are only congratulated
when answering a math problem correctly.
Strong Points: This
software covers a variety of math skills for a broad range of students (ages
9-14). Bright colors and sound effects add to the game. Students have control
over the movement of the submarine and can apply what they know about math to
answer the problems. Helpful hints can guide students in the right direction.
Weak Points: This
software focuses too much on the game and not on mathematics. It seems boring
due to its repetative nature. Students can bypass the math problems, by quickly
typing in two incorrect answers (even though they are penalized) to get back
on with the game. The directions are confusing and the game does not allow for
reflection. The wide range of math skills make it difficult to use in the classroom.
Reviewer: Stacey Pennock
Position: Graduate Student
Date Reviewed: January 14, 2004
Computer System Reviewed on: Macintosh G4 450,
512 mb ram.