There are many brain fitness software products available these days so when I was offered a copy of Core Learning's program Mind Builder, I agreed to check it out. It offers a series of test questions similar to America's SAT, while Mind Builder Pro is a fuller package that also incorporates IQ, career and aptitude tests intended to be "fun mental exercises." Unlike some similarly-marketed software there were no unproven claims of preventing age-related cognitive decline or improving processing speed. There were vague promises like "get smart, stay smart" and "build brain power" - whatever that means - but it's just a package from a company specializing in educational software that encourages (older) kids and adults to challenge themselves with established types of tests.
If questions that combine multiple anagrams with Raven's progressive matrices and grammar aren't hard enough for you, there are options to divert attention and make it more difficult. Some people would probably find a ticking clock annoying, but to me it was like a metronome and I found myself mentally practicing old piano lessons while I attempted pattern recognition. I'm not sure if this helped my scores or not, but it was kind of fun. Or maybe I was just bored.
Other "distracting sounds" included a car horn, crying baby, airplane takeoff, whistles, alarms and such, all of which were definitely irritating. Your mileage may vary, of course. A loud vacuum and car alarm going off while I try to solve hateful math problems is fairly (artificially) stressful. Maybe if I was talking to a creditor on the phone at the same time it'd be worse - but at least I wouldn't have to worry about the bill for this software, priced under $40. [Disclosure: my review copy was free.]
I do have complaints: the program wouldn't run in separate windows, instead dominating my screen until I shut it down. I couldn't find a way to turn off all the sounds completely, which is a pretty serious flaw. Finally, it has a very heavy emphasis on math, which is not to my taste. But if you enjoy brain teasers and do like math problems, give it a try.
It's hard to imagine what kind of reward one might get from such sterile exercises. When it comes to physical exercise, a walk in the mountains is so much nicer than a visit to the gym. When it comes to mental exercise, there are far nicer alternatives. Learn a musical instrument. Learn a language. Read War & Peace in Russian. Do all three....
Besides training for a particular type of test, do you think this might develop some capabilities? I can certainly imagine that learning to ignore a distracting sound might be a useful skill to learn though.
Thank you for the review of Core Mind Builder and Core Mind Builder Pro. You can select different background sounds or turn sounds off entirely. Click: Take a Test>Sounds>Sounds Off to stop all sounds during testing.
Hi Doug - thanks for the chance to try it out. There were lots of good elements.
To clarify, I wasn't referring to the distracting sounds or ticking clock, which I know you can turn off. I meant the sounds from the software itself when it opens, and the little clicks every time you move on to another question. It's often important to be discreet about computer use on my laptop in public, and it's a problem when I want to listen to music instead of unnecessary noises from software. Windows' launch music has the same issue, as do web sites that automatically play music when you hit the page. It's intrusive and can be embarrassing/annoying to the user.
BigTom - absolutely, practicing can help you develop critical and lateral thinking skills, improve comprehension and help with concentration.
This looks like an interesting product, although I am in agreement with one of the previous posts; I'd rather seek mental exercise from something more tempting, like the learning of an instrument. Having said that, the product in question would be intriguing to anyone who enjoys math solving exercises.