Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Barnum Software, Quarter Mile Math

The thought of my kids winning any race based around math is, frankly, absurd. While they know the concepts, quick skill is not a strength by any means. They move about as fast as frozen molasses dripping out of an eyedropper. My son is actually quite strong in math. However, his insistence on skip counting every multiplication step makes for slow work. Last year we added some mnemonic techniques as well as practice on estimation and starting with known factors. These were all helpful, but it came down to just needing some drill and kill. It sounds boring, but it needn't be, with a program like Quarter Mile Math.

Quarter Mile, by Barnum Software, has been around in homeschooling circles for some time. The concept is simple, yet effective. The drill and kill method is presented through short races of either cars or horses. The beauty of the program is that after five races on any given topic, the student is actually racing against their top best times. This creates steady motivation to improve their score, without the disappointment of losing to someone else. Depending on the edition purchased, there is also an option that will allow students to easily race against each other.

How it Works

Students can race either horses or race cars. There are a variety of topics from which to choose. To see topics categorized by level, click here. For each topic, the program keeps the top five average from previous races, creating a self-competitive environment. There are six racing lanes. The one on the left is the student with the five lanes on the right being exact replays of the five best races of that student.

Once the race starts, problems appear at the bottom of the screen. The student is given three tries for each problem before being given the answer, which they then have the enter. Those that were answered incorrectly seem to reappear at a higher frequency until they are mastered.

At first, my son wasn't thrilled with practicing his math facts. Sure enough, his first race was met with groans and cries of frustration because he had many incorrect problems and “lost” the race, even though the program is actually designed such that students place first for the initial race. Once he had raced at least five times, I was quick to point out that he was racing against himself. Therefore, he won every race! For each race, he'd strive to be first place, constantly improving his own score. Each day I have him work only for about 15 minutes, first on a particular table, then with random problems of all the tables he's practiced so far. His confidence is increasing and he's no long skip counting every singe problem. Success!

Deluxe Edition
$2.95/month, $19.95/year or $34.95/2 years*
Includes all levels

For review, I received the Deluxe Edition, Bundle 1, 2, and 3. This is a subscription edition that costs $2.95 a month, includes topics from all levels, K-12, and can accommodate 12 students. Once installed, you do not need the cd-rom to run the program, allowing installation on multiple computers in your home for simultaneous practice. You do, however, need to have an internet connection to use this edition to connect to one of Barnum's servers. Students do not need to go on the internet to play, nor does it open your browser. From the user perspective, it operates as a game that is not connected to the outside world.


  • You can start and stop your subscription at any time if subscribing by month, or purchase a longer subscription at a reduced rate. If your student needs practice for only a short time, this is more economical than purchasing the standard edition. The monthly rate would be an excellent option for summer practice and reinforcement of skills learned throughout the school year.
  • All levels are included in the subscription price. If you have a student that progresses very fast, higher levels are available without having to buy another level. Furthermore, if you have many children with a wide range of abilities, they can all use the same program at no additional cost.
  • The tracking features are more sophisticated than the standard edition. Where the standard edition only keeps the top five scores, the deluxe gives dates, number of races, topics, scores and tracks progress for each user. If desired, the tracking results can be printed for records.
  • If you have children close in ability, they can race against each other for a bit of extra competition. The license even allows you to send the software to out-of-state grandparents so they can race against your students. What a great way to get extended family involved in your child's education!
  • Students can use the program at the same time if you have it installed on more than one computer in your home.
  • Free upgrades.

  • You must have internet connection to use this edition, preferably high-speed service.
  • The Deluxe Edition is a subscription service. If you plan to use it very sporadically or just prefer access as long as you own the product, the standard version may be a better investment.

Standard Edition
$39.95 - $89.95*
7 programs available

This edition comes on a CD-Rom, used to install and run the software. There are three levels that can be purchased individually or bundled with other levels. Each disc has leveled topics, though the game itself operates the same as other editions. Students cannot directly race against siblings with this edition, only their own top scores. Only the top five average is saved by the program.

  • You pay a flat fee and have access to the program as long as you own the disc, allowing you to put it away until a younger child is ready to use it.
  • You do not need internet access.
  • It may be more economical for long term practice at the same level.

  • Students can not simultaneously use the program.
  • Students cannot race against each other directly. They can, however, compare scores based on the top five averages of a given topic to see who is ranked higher.
  • The tracking system is not as sophisticated as the Deluxe. Only the top five scores are kept.
  • You will need to buy multiple levels if you have a wide range of abilities among your students, perhaps making it more costly depending on the duration you plan to use the program.

A full comparison chart can be viewed on the Barnum site.

I've used the standard in the past and the deluxe for this review. Which is the best to purchase will depend on your family's particular needs.

Upcoming Option

Barnum Software is looking for groups of seven or more families who would like to participate in a pilot tournament program. Families in the group would use a special Deluxe version of The Quarter Mile Math that would enable students within the group to have tournaments with each other. This is a great option for homeschool groups. Please contact Christopher Wright at

A 2-minute introduction video is available on the Barnum Software website in addition to 6 more in-depth videos. Be sure to check them out if this product sounds like a great addition to your homeschool.

Free Demo Download
Pricing Information

Throw away those boring flash cards! For improving computational speed, this software really can't be beat.

To see how this product worked in other homes, read more reviews on the official TOS Crew blog.

*Until Sept 30th, all of my readers are being extended a $5 discount off any product, Standard or Deluxe. Just use code 7W7A7 on your order form to receive your discount!

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