Two Apps Making Math Learning Fun for My Daughter
January 26, 2016
I don't usually do app reviews on this blog, but I wanted to mention a couple of apps that my daughter LOVES that are helping to keep math fun for her. You should consider these more recommendations than formal reviews.
First, some background. My 5 year old daughter enjoys playing games and watching shows on her Kindle Fire. This is something she is allowed to do only within defined time limits. Her teacher recommended / suggested that the kids work at home on math using an app called ScootPad. And I tried to do this, despite the fact that my overall goal is to limit the amount of time that my daughter spends using her device.
It turns out that my daughter, who really enjoys math, HATES ScootPad. As we've experienced it, the app consists of a series of quizzes. They are repetitive and too easy for my daughter's experience level (she went to a fairly academic preschool). I tried to get her to get through them, because I thought that if we could get through the early ones, more challenging material would follow. But we never made it, because she was literally crying with frustration, and I eventually stopped having her use it. I'm not saying that ScootPad doesn't have value, and wouldn't be a good fit for some kids. But for my daughter, it was taking away her joy of learning.
Fortunately, there are two apps that my daughter really enjoys playing with that are helping her to build her math skills. The first one is from Scholastic, and it's called Sushi Monster. It is only available on iPad and iPhone, so I have to let her use my iPad to play it. Scholastic's website says:
"The game, which meets Common Core State Standards, offers students practice, reinforcement, and an extension of math fact fluency in a completely engaging and challenging way. Students will strengthen reasoning strategies for whole number addition and multiplication by helping monsters make a target sum or product. Students earn points, stars, trophies, and personal bests to challenge themselves and unlock new levels of play.
The addition mode gives kids a solution, and asks them to select which numbers add up to that solution, from a displayed set of numbers. Then you get another solution, and you pick from the remaining numbers to try for that number sentence. If you choose the wrong numbers for one sentence, you probably won't be able to complete successive sentences.
Each round increases the number of choices, so the game gets harder and harder as you go. If you successfully get through one level, the next level has higher numbers to work with. (E.g. at first you might be choosing which two numbers add up to 10, eventually you are selecting which numbers add up to 120 or 900 or whatever).
There are fun sounds, and it's very fast-paced and entertaining. Then you get virtual points and stars and such, which my daughter does find motivating. There's also a multiplication mode, which we've dabbled with, but she's not quite ready for it. But my general view with this app is that she's excited about it and asking to play, while practicing doing addition and even multiplication in her head. She basically learned that 20 plus 20 is the same as 2 plus 2, with an extra 0 at the end, by playing around with this app.
More recently I found several recommendations for math-based apps in Jo Boaler's book Mathematical Mindsets. We tried a few of them out, and found one that was a hit: Hungry Fish from Motion Math. This one is available on iOS and Google platforms, including the Kindle tablets (which is definitely a bonus for us). Here's the Motion Math description:
"Your fish is hungry – hungry for numbers! This fun addition and subtraction game for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch has instant addition: touch two numbers together to instantly add. Most addition games teach in the form 3 + 4 = __; Hungry Fish challenges players to find different ways to make a 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+2+2, etc.). There are 18 levels of challenge (for 4-year-olds to adults) and bonuses to customize your fish with new colors and fins."
So, it's similar to Sushi Monster, but with an underwater theme. The fish has a number on it, and then bubbles float out with different numbers on them. Kids have to combine the bubbles to make the number displayed on the fish, and then the fish eats them. As the fish eats, it grows bigger, and the kid is getting points. At certain intervals, you earn a new color with which to decorate your fish (which my daughter again finds motivating). She's experimented with the addition, subtraction, and negative number levels. In the latter, the target is a negative number, and you have to combine positive and negative numbers to get to the total. The first few times my daughter played this app she was positively giddy with how fun she found it.
I've found it interesting to watch her with this app. There are lots of different ways to combine the numbers to get to the target numbers, in some cases. She doesn't just have the answers in her head all of the time (particularly for the two-digit numbers), but she uses strategies, like combining smaller numbers at random until she gets something that she recognizes will lead to a solution. Sometimes she sets the difficulty level too high and gets frustrated, but it's easy for her to slide it back to an easier level. She is sometimes learning through trial and error, which is how a lot of learning happens. I am happy to see her using this.
We don't get "credit" at school for using Sushi Monster or Hungry Fish. And I only let my daughter use them as part of her device limit, not on top of that limit. But if she's going to be on the device, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see her practicing math effortlessly, enjoying herself, while continuing to build her knowledge and intuition.
Do you all have any other math app recommendations for us?
© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).