Jump Start Power Prep: 4th Grade DVD Game Review
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Players: 1-4 (ages 8-10)
Playing Time: 20 minutes and up, depending on number of players and how quickly they answer the questions


I’ll never forget the anxiety that standardized testing caused me as a kid. It’s not that I needed to worry. I always got good grades. But they were so structured and ordered and official-looking. And, as we were repeatedly reminded, they were important. bEqual’s Jump Start Power Prep DVD games are geared to help kids prepare for standardized testing—without stressing them out.

A blonde-haired brainiac named Polly acts as the game’s host. Polly leads players through four rounds of math, reading, and language arts questions—the kind that kids will find later, on their standardized tests. Players use their DVD player’s remote control to select answers. If they answer correctly, Polly congratulates them. If they answer incorrectly, Polly offers encouragement and helpful hints for answering correctly (like it’s okay to guess if you’re not sure—or your first guess is often the right one) before showing the correct answer. At the end of each round, Polly rewards players with facts and videos about space.

  
 
Throughout the game, kids will cover everything from capitalization and parts of speech to word problems. The main menu also includes a list of Polly’s test-taking tips. There’s a help section as well, though it’s not very helpful—so, for the most part, you’ll have to figure out game play as you go.

When playing with two to four players, each player gets to play one round. This means that player one gets the remote, picks the category, and answers all of the questions in the round. Then he or she passes the remote over to the next player, who does the same in round two. I can only imagine the problems this could cause with energetic eight- to ten-year-olds, who will probably lose interest quite quickly when forced to wait their turn while someone else solves math problems.

Despite the colorful screens and the occasional trash-talking from the brainy host, though, kids aren’t likely to fall for the old trick-‘em-into-learning stunt. There’s no question that this is educational—and it’s not really fun and exciting enough to convince kids that it’s just a game. That said, though, as an educational tool, it’s still more exciting than a math textbook.

As your kids prepare for those anxiety-filled standardized testing days, this DVD game is a good way to help them get ready. It offers a variety of questions—from easy to challenging—and it will help kids get used to answering typical standardized test questions. It’s a good educational option—but it’s not a game that your kids will rush home from school to play.

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