a unique app that tackles word problems
Developer – Glen Storey
Age Range – 8 to 12 year olds
Subject – Numeracy
Skill – Problem Solving
Rating – 74/100
Price – Free (with IAP)
App Store Link - http://geni.us/KyY
Play Store Link - Not Available
Windows Store Link - Not Available
Math Shake is an app that does something most other numeracy apps do not do – tackle word problems. This is a big difficulty for many children. Indeed, a common complaint I hear from parents is that their son or daughter can do the calculations once they get the question into the form of a sum but struggle to make sense of the word problem. Math Shake is designed to specifically target this area.
Parents and teachers can choose which of the four operations they would like to focus on. They can pick addition, subtraction, multiplication or division on their own or use any combination of the four. The children are then presented with a word problem that they have to solve. This is written in the top half of the screen and in the bottom half there are boxes where children create the computation. They do this by locating the relevant information in the question and then dragging these numbers down to the boxes at the bottom.
If children are having difficulty reading the question they can touch the speech bubble to hear it read out loud. The voice is an automated one but it is clear and easy to understand. Children can also touch the light bulb to get a hint.
The next step is to choose the computational sign and the app helps in this process by directing them to the relevant word or words in the problem that indicate the operation they should use. For example, adding will be signalled by words such as “altogether”, subtraction by words like “difference”, multiplication by words like “groups of” and division by words like “shared by”. Being able to recognise the meaning of these words is really the key to understanding word problems.
If they get the computational sign right the children move on to the next screen where they can have a go at solving the sum. However, if they choose the wrong computational sign, the app will not allow them to progress until they rectify this. I like this aspect of the app because it prevents children from doing all the hard work and then finding out right at the end that they had made a mistake back at the beginning.
The screen used for solving the equation is basically a digital whiteboard that children write on. They can change the size, colour and font of the text and there are also a number of useful tools that that can be called upon if extra assistance is required. For example, children can use counters or create a number line.
Once they are happy with their solution children click the box in the bottom right corner. This takes them to the answer page, where they type in their answer and discover if their solution is correct or not.
Nothing Else Like It
Math Shake approaches a tricky area of mathematics and does it well. There is currently nothing else like it on the app store and the developers should be commended for their novel approach. There are a few things that I would like to see improved with it. For example, the narration of the questions, although clear, could be much more natural. It would also be nice to have some sounds to accompany the celebratory visuals when children do get a question correct.
Math Shake is not the sort of app that children are going to choose to play by themselves but used with adult guidance I feel it will assist them in developing a greater understanding of word problems.
Try the Free Version First
Math Shake does not contain any adverts and there are no links to social media. The free version does contain in-app purchases. One question pack (Confident) is provided with the app and there are five others that can be downloaded (Beginner, Easy, Whiz Kid, Pro and Genius). Each question pack is priced at £1.49. Alternatively, all the question packs can be downloaded in one go by purchasing the Math Shake for Schools version. It is priced at £2.49. My advice would be to download the free version first to see if it is something you would use. If you like it, you can then buy the Math Shake for Schools version rather than making in-app purchases.
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