Apple II educational software is abundant these days, to be sure, but toss out the preschool stuff and the drill-and-practice programs and you're left with much, much less than you expected when you bought your computer.
That's why Davidson's new entry, Math Blaster Mystery, is such a welcome addition. This package, aimed at ages 10 and up, is a departure from the rote software that Davidson is best known for.
The program offers up four activities, each of which comes in four progressively more difficult levels. The first one, Follow the Steps, takes you through the steps necessary to solve a math word problem. Even kids horrified by the phrase word problem can manage to find the solution when taken by the hand and led through the problem.
The second activity, Weigh the Evidence, tests your ability to plan ahead, for you have to stack and restack numbered blocks in numerical order on scales to arrive at a preset value. It sounds easy until you start shifting numbers and then discover you've foolishly made the same move three times already, and you're no closer to the answer than when you started.
Math Blaster Mystery's third activity is Decipher the Code, a Mastermind-style game where you fill in the blanks in an empty formula. Drop in the right values or mathematical symbols, and you'll have a complete formula. Forget how to solve equations, and you're in for a long night.
The package's last activity, Search for Clues, is an interesting (though ultimately feeble) attempt to put graphics to work while you play a guess-the-numbers game. The game is great—the clues keep you going but make you work—but the animation is bleak and the graphics are realty unnecessary. Still, they brighten the screen.
Math Blaster Mystery has all the usual Davidson touches, it works on all Apple II computers, supports the mouse (a terrific device for this program, and strongly recommended), and keeps records of all who use the software.
Check out Math Blaster Mystery. It costs $49.95 and is published by Davidson, 3135 Kashiwa Street, Torrance, California 90505; (213) 534-4070.
Some old Apple software titles are classics, true gems that shine despite their age. One such program is Crossword Magic. First published in 1981, and today still available from Mindscape, Crossword Magic shows its age but still does the job.
Enter clues and their answers, and Crossword Magic builds the puzzle. You can play the puzzle on the computer after it's been created or on paper after it's been printed it out. You can restrict the size of a crossword or let it expand automatically to fit the words you enter.
Crossword Magic puts together impressive puzzles—fitting in words of up to 20 characters, offering several useful options at puzzle print time, and even letting you edit a completed puzzle.
For a program that solidly fills a niche, consider Crossword Magic. The program sells for $49.95 and is published by Mindscape, 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, Illinois 60062; (312) 480-7667.