Number Cross

"Math is the Common Sense of Life" SM

The marketing phrase "Math is the Common Sense of Life" appeared when the user exited the program. The phrase was obvious. Math is included in every aspect of a person's life. It is as basic as placing four plates, with matching eating utensils, on a table for a meal or counting change. It can become complex as a person divides money for paying bills or more complex as a person calculates percentages on a loan.

Math also forms the basis of life itself in the form of numerical calculations for biology, and most recently, genetics. Life itself is based on numbers, mathematical equations. A person can not advance to higher forms of math unless the basics have been learned.

While this may seem basic and obvious, to the millions of adults learners over the age of 18, basic math is difficult. While the number problem (3 * 3) is simple to you and I, to them, it is difficult. Unlike math computer programs in 1989 that used games as a format, Number Cross' format was a simple one. It was non-threatening to an adult who would be embarrassed by using a child's program. It crossed over from use by a young learner to an adult learner, perhaps as old as thirty or fifty, as they worked toward their GED (General Education Diploma).

Timed-Sequence allowed the student to advance at their own speed to a more difficult level or move backward to easier material. This ability, to gain confidence, in solving a mixture of easy and difficult problems formed the basis for PAL (Positive Answer Learning). It was created as Mr. Arnold modified the randomizer engine to present a mixture of easy and difficult problems at all four levels..

Real-Life Experiences

In real-life, a student will make mistakes as they complete math problems. The method of correction is easy, erase the incorrect answer and replace it with the correct answer. Number Cross allows mistakes to occur. When a student enters the incorrect answer, nothing happens. The program records that an incorrect answer was given but the program does not advance or present a message that the answer was incorrect - it sits and waits for the correct answer.

Unlike math programs in 1989 that presented a buzzer type sound or used a timer for the answer, Number Cross sits and waits. When the correct answer is given, the program advanced to the next problem. Version 1.0 had built in, but not activated, a diagnostic module. This module recorded the exact problem missed and included the correct answer and the incorrect answer, or answers,  given. This feature was deactivated as the program was run on a 5 1/4" floppy disk or a 7.20K 3.5" disk. The program was designed for long term use and excessive incorrect answers, by one or more students using the program,  quickly filled the remaining disk space on a 5 1/4" diskette.

Help

As in real-life experiences, there comes a time when Help is needed. This could occur in a classroom setting or at home. Number Cross included Help. If a student was stuck on one problem, they could ask for Help. Help displayed the correct answer. The student then progressed to the next problem. However, the scoring module recorded that Help was needed. While Help provided the answer, it did not detract from the overall score. Incorrect answers were also recorded but did not detract from the overall score. Success was measured by a decline in incorrect answers and Help needed. 

Network Capable

The entire Computer Classics series of software programs were designed to run stand-alone or on a Banyan Vines , Windows NT or a Novell network system. Each program was designed to be accessed, simultaneously, by more than one student. Number Cross was priced at $19.95 and included a license to install it on a network system at no additional cost. One or more students could access the program simultaneously and each student would receive different math problems.

The diagnostic module, in version 1.0, was designed to interact with another module on a network server.  The intent was to allow an instructor to control the entire Number Cross program. The instructor could look at the problems missed and interpret patterns in the incorrect answers. A student could be prevented from moving from level one in Addition to level two. The instructor could control the number of puzzles completed. The instructor could interact with the program and set controls so a student could only complete ten puzzles at level three of Addition.

Humor

Mr. Arnold's campaign for the Software Publisher's Association Awards for Best Elementary School Program was to present his computer program Aesop's Fables - The Tortoise and the Hare as a real-life type movie. Prospective voters received a real 8 x 10" black and white photograph, suitable for framing, of a tortoise and a hare (animals courtesy of the Nashville Children's Museum). The animals were sitting in folding cloth chairs looking backward, similar to real actors on a movie set, with their names imprinted on the backs of the chairs. The Tortoise and the Hare were wearing sunglasses (courtesy of Milam Optical in Nashville). The photographs were signed and the Hare included a memo that he actually won the race. He claimed he was the star of the diskette not the Tortoise; he should get top billing. Also, he had been selected for an upcoming role in the new T-SL (Timed-Sequence Learning) diskette - Noah's Ark. He had a cameo appearance in a cast of thousands. The Hare included a balloon imprinted with the caption - Vote for the Hare!

Number Cross , perhaps, has the distinction of having the worst advertising campaigns ever designed and implemented. One of the features in version 1.0 was a Master Puzzle. The Master Puzzle only appeared after a secret number of puzzles were completed. The Master Puzzle began with a single number and gave three clues to the next number. If successful, the puzzle would advance to the next number and give three more clues. If an incorrect answer was given three times, the Master Puzzle disappeared and it would return later. If successfully completed, the student or students, would receive a certificate, suitable for framing, declaring them a Master Player. No one ever successfully solved the Master Puzzle.

Puzzleholics Anonymous

To market Number Cross and the Master Puzzle, Mr. Arnold created an, unsuccessful, advertising campaign. The campaign was designed around one of his Computer Classics programs, Aesop's Fables - The Tortoise and the Hare. The campaign was a series of newspapers, newsletters, he sent to various state educational departments. The newsletters were from a newspaper in the forest named the Acorn. The Acorn contained a variety of stories related to the animals in the forest; the Owl gave the weather forecast; Mrs. Deer gave birth to a fawn. In one newspaper article, the Hare was arrested for selling fake answers to the Master Puzzle. The picture of the Hare, in the article, showed him wearing sunglasses and a prison striped suit behind bars. The Hare is quoted in the article as saying, "I solved the Master Puzzle on my first try. Everyone knows a hare can multiply!"

The Hare, star of the TS-L diskette "The Hare and the Tortoise"
 and signed for the upcoming diskettes - "Noah and the Ark" and "The Hare with Bogart's Face"
sentenced to five years for selling fake answers to the Master Puzzle

The newspapers included several stories of people becoming obsessed with solving the Master Puzzle and a newsletter named Puzzleholics Anonymous. In one story, a man shot his computer, after spending an entire weekend attempting to solve it. In another story, elementary school children refused to leave the math classroom unless they solved the Master Puzzle. The humor gets better, or worse, depending on your view. One story had the program taken before a judge named - I. M. Nutz. Judge I. M. Nutz declared the software program Number Cross addictive, as users  attempted to solve the various math puzzles and attempted to solve the Master Puzzle. He ordered that every copy of Number Cross have a warning label placed on it. The warning label stated - WARNING!

Issues of the Acorn, in addition to Judge I. M. Nutz's court order, were sent to various departments of education throughout the United States. Included in the packet were several labels with instructions to place the labels on packages of Number Cross . The labels contained only one word - WARNING!

Number Cross becomes the first computer program in history to have a warning label placed on it. What makes the advertising campaign the worst in history is that educators thought Judge I. M.  Nutz's court order was real!

 

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