Friday, April 11, 2008

Brainetics Review: Barbie Wasn't The Only One...

Who thought math was hard. Do you remember that? The Barbie who complained about math and created an enormous backlash within the feminist community? I was so furious to read about that at the time - well before I had children. I thought that half of the reason girls were failing in math and science was cultural. Girls weren't given a chance to excel in these areas, and the insipid marketing folks at Mattel weren't helping things along with their numbers reticent Barbie Doll.

Then I had two girls. One is brilliant at math - actually enjoys it, and other ranks it right up there with trips to the dentist. So when the wonderful women of PBN put out the call for BRAINETICS, the program that promises to help your child with math, I jumped.

Brainetics is created by Mike Byster, an uber-genius who's sole mission in life is to get kids excited about math. And he's not just any run of the mill math genius who started seeing patterns in numbers from the womb - he actually cares about children so much that he has dedicated his career to helping children get excited about numbers.

Brainetics promises that your child will learn how to compute with out pencil and paper, that it will improve their memory, concentration, and skill level. But most importantly, Brainetics promises to improve your child's confidence. Without confidence, it's pretty much hard to learn how to do anything.

Since my daughter is at the older end of the spectrum for this program, I gave her the box and said, "Have at it." Of course, I had to micromanage just a teensy bit, but for the most part she went to work on her own.

I was somewhat sceptical when I popped into her room and saw her watching television. It looked like she was watching a game show - and she was glued to the screen. Hello! Brainetics brings the lessons in five DVDs in a frenetic, exciting pace that keeps even the most reticent child's attention. This is NOT your dry math brought to you by a droning professor in the classroom. If there had been Brainetics when I was in school, I might have actually done well in math, too. This guy has a LOT of energy, and he's a lot like watching a figure skater: he makes it look easy. Maddie actually had her workbook open and in front of her as she reviewed these DVDs in her room. All I can say is, given her age, I was really surprised this held her interest. Typically, she's most easily engrossed in Teen Vogue or Harry Potter. Not math. And certainly not five math-related DVDs. When she told me how to multiply two two digit numbers in my head (not something I can do) I knew Mike was a genius.

Unlike figure skating, though, this is something almost anyone can pick up. My daughter has always liked card tricks, so Mike really spoke to her interests when he tied in mathematical skills and cards.

Most importantly, though, we have had AIMS testing all week this week, and I have been very nervous for my daughter. Yesterday I asked her teacher how she was doing.

"Well, the math section is quite challenging this year, so we'll see. But Maddie seems very relaxed and confident. Her whole demeanor over testing is different this year."

My daughter seemed confident? She wasn't visibly riddled with anxiety on math day? This is the first time ever that a teacher hasn't expressed concern over Maddie's apparent fear and loathing over math testing.

That alone is worth its weight in gold. I don't care if she's a straight A student - I just want her to like the process of learning. And clearly, so does Mike Byster.