Personal Trainer: Math is nothing more than a workbook, a massive collection of simple math problems with blank spaces for your answers. It assumes you already know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide any combination of numbers 1 through 20. It never provides any useful tips to simplify calculations, complete problems more efficiently, or avoid common errors. It doesn't even tell you the correct answer when checking for mistakes.
Instead, the software is obsessed with speed. It records your time for each set of problems and constantly encourages you to work faster. Yet it never explains why speed is important to math skills. Will my life really be enriched by shaving half a second from the time I take to multiply 13 x 7? Even if you care about arithmetical speed, surely we can all agree that accuracy comes first, but helping players get the right answer is hardly the focus of this product.
Dr. Kageyama, the animated guide (based on a real-life researcher), relies entirely on memorization and repetition to enhance math skills, and again, the only enhancement possible here is raw speed. Any adult will admit that math skills are incredibly important in everyday life, but only to the extent that they can be applied to the real world. We use math to solve real problems; therefore, it is critical for students to realize how to translate math skills into life skills and, perhaps, vice-versa. Having been a math tutor in the past, I know how much a struggling student can learn when he or she realizes the tremendous power of applied math. I also know that every mathematical function, even basic addition, can be taught through a variety of methods and tricks. Different students respond best to different approaches. Unfortunately, Personal Trainer: Math has no approach at all.
Aside from its pointlessness, the software doesn't even work well within its extremely narrow scope. Anyone who might record competitive times in the speed-based challenges is likely to be annoyed, if not thwarted, by the loose handwriting recognition. The program has a lot of trouble distinguishing 4 from 9, and it may (or may not) recognize 5 after a single stroke, even if you write it with two strokes. The recognition algorithm also inadvertently lets you cheat, since it accepts correct answers immediately, yet it takes a couple of seconds to accept a wrong answer. That's more than enough time to realize something is wrong, clear your answer, and try again.
It's a shame that Personal Trainer: Math fails so completely in offering any real help to children or adults who struggle with math. Its only real audience is the player who has already mastered the basic math skills but wants to be faster... for what practical purpose, I can't imagine. Skip this abysmal self-help product in favor of Brain Age or Brain Age 2; both offer more interesting math activities along with many other fun mental exercises.