Judge Lacey Worrell spots a flaw in the premise that circuses and math skills are natural counterparts.
Our reviews of LeapFrog: Learning Set, Volume 2 (published December 5th, 2010), LeapFrog: Learn To Read At The Storybook Factory (published December 8th, 2005), LeapFrog: Numberland (published February 26th, 2012), LeapFrog: Phonics Farm (published November 20th, 2011), LeapFrog: Sing and Learn with Us! (published September 4th, 2011), Leap Frog: Talking Words Factory 2: Code Word Caper (published January 21st, 2005), and LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory (published June 18th, 2009) are also available.
Step right up to the Math Circus!
One might expect a DVD from the makers of the phenomenally popular and unique Leap Pad products to be of as high a quality as the rest of the products in the Leap Frog line. One might be wrong.
Facts of the Case
Leap, Lily, and little Tad travel to the Math Factory, where Professor Quigley has a fun day of learning about math in store for them. Thanks to Professor Quigley's friends, the Quidgits, Leap, Lily, and Tad learn about counting, the numbers 1 through 10, and basic addition and subtraction. Leap and the others sing songs as they increase their knowledge of math, and the Quidgits do circus tricks to underscore how easy it is to learn about math. Professor Quigley plays the ringmaster, and the kids even get to play math-related carnival games to aid in their learning about addition and subtraction.
As any parent whose child owns a Leap Pad will tell you, the Leap Pad technology is amazing. Using a special pen and a paperback workbook, Leap Pads teach everything from phonics to math by encouraging children to play games based on favorite characters, such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer, or on Leap Pad's signature character, Leap, who is featured in this DVD. Leap Pads are portable and emphasize the concept of learning through fun. If only this DVD were as full of quality as the Leap Pad itself.
Despite its relatively paltry 30-minute run time, kids' eyes may glaze over after only about 10 minutes. The problem is that this DVD's storyline is very weak. There is a great deal of action as the Quidgits leap around, but there is nothing compelling to movie the story along, which almost guarantees instant boredom. The idea of having the math activity take place during the circus could be engaging, but it falls flat, mainly because there does not appear to be a point to the story. The other problem with this DVD is the fact that the majority of it concentrates on counting to 10, something many children can do these days by age two to two and a half. Addition and subtraction come much later in the DVD, by which time most kids will have lost interest. Although Leap Frog: Math Circus is aimed at three- to six-year-olds, much of it will feel stale to little viewers. Three- and four-year-olds may be bored, and kids ages five and six may find it to be too babyish.
There are some good things to be had here, such as the fact that this DVD points out that numbers are everywhere and that they act as symbols. The use of the Quidgits is helpful, because it gives children an opportunity to visualize once the DVD delves into addition and subtraction. The included game, in which Tad encourages viewers to add and subtract with the Quidgits, is easy to operate and understand, and it is a nice reinforcement of the concepts presented during the story.
That said, the overall animation is unspectacular and fails to engage, and the voice acting is subpar. I learned far more as a kid watching The Electric Company and Schoolhouse Rock. Overall, the production appears to be an attempt to throw together a sloppy 30 minutes in order to capitalize on the Leap Frog name, which is usually synonymous with quality products. Despite the fact that a game is included, it would be difficult to convince a parent that it is worth spending money on a DVD that runs only 30 minutes.
Leap Frog: Math Circus pales in comparison to the unique Leap Pad technology available in your local toy store. The latter is a far wiser investment of your money, and your kids are almost certainly guaranteed to learn more with it than they will watching this lame effort to teach them something. And who says that DVDs always need to teach, anyway? There is nothing wrong with those that entertain purely for the sake of entertainment. At least if the creators of this DVD had kept a better balance between teaching and entertaining, it might have made Leap Frog: Math Circus worth watching. I mean, the point is to make children like math, not run screaming from the television, begging for some chores to do.
Leap Frog: Math Circus is a chink in the armor of the strong Leap Frog brand. It is hereby sentenced to six months at hard labor in the hopes that its producers can come up with a better DVD the next time they come up for parole.
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