The Game: This race is a numbers game. For each turn, players have to decide how many spaces they want to move (overdoing it can result in going off-track and crashing), and then have to answer a math question (math functions and difficulty depend on game settings). Answering correctly will allow the player to move forward the desired number of spaces. A few spots on the track offer the chance to pick a random number for an additional jump forward in the race. (Atari, 1982)
Memories: Few equations have proven as impossible in the video game industry as the still-ongoing quest to make educational games not just fun, but something that anyone would actually want to fork over money for and play. Hint: Math Gran Prix, despite its noble intentions, did not solve that equation.
Though audiovisual dazzle isn’t going to be the mission statement of an edutainment title, Math Gran Prix was still startlingly rudimentary even by 1982 standards; it’s a sad day when you can honestly say that 2600 Pac-Man looked better than this. This wouldn’t be a literal game-killer except that it’s up to the graphics to get across how many spaces are available for the player to move his car.
The good news is that, like almost any other educational game you can think of, nobody was really paying attention to Math Gran Prix; it’s not held up as a specimen of Atari’s first-party misfires in the same breath with Pac-Man and E.T. …but it’s not help up as a specimen of Atari’s best either. With the sluggish controls (the joysticks act as nothing more than selectors for the number fields, rather than having any control over the cars) and lackluster graphics, Math Gran Prix wasn’t a great moment for gaming or education.