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YodelOh Math Mountain Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 3rd, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Readers and fans of Spinlight Studio may be familiar with an app of theirs from last year, the memorable YodelOh - a wonderful take on the classic shooting gallery-style game taking place in the Swiss Alps.

This is a game that my son, although far from mastering, really enjoys playing and although it is not specifically an app with a high educational value, I am happy for my son to use his screen time playing this game as the look of this app is lovely and fun as well as being great for his reflexes and hand/eye coordination.

Because of this, I am very happy to let readers know about Spinlight Studio’s new app, YodelOh Math Mountain, with much of the same game play as their original app, yet now with a terrific math element that teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as players tap correct answers seen bottom of the screen, slowing down the shepherd’s ascent up a mountain, as there is no place to go once at the top but falling over the side, ending the game. Correct answers will gain points; wrong answers will take a step in the wrong direction.

Players will also enjoy the shooting-game elements found in this app as sheep and later larger rams try to push the shepherd up the mountain. Tap these creatures to earn points as well before a good shove will send the herder closer and closer to the mountain's peak.

I have enjoyed both versions of this app, but it is a special treat how here, math drills can be practiced as well. This game becomes pretty fast-paced with a lot to shoot at as well as answering the questions at hand, and I appreciate that hints are given if needed, reducing the number of choices to choose from, especially helpful for children who may need help with these problems.

I am eager to show this app to my son as he can now work on math while playing a game that he already enjoys, especially as he gets older his math speed increases. The vintage look of a shooting-gallery game, with distressed wood details and the utterly satisfying sound of a metallic “ping” when hitting one’s target are elements that adults will enjoy as much as their children.

I am happy to recommend YodelOh Math Mountain as a fun, speedy math game that will surely keep children’s attention from kindergarten and up, including those in grade school who can focus on multiplication and division as well as a variety of math functions within the same game. It would be nice, however, if an option for a slower speed were also included as I can see some young students not being able to keep up with all that is going on, making this not the app for them - an issue that could be addressed by including a beginner level of some sort.

For those readers who have not done so, do check out other apps developed by Spinlight Studio as they are uniformly of a very high quality and include interesting educational apps for a wide range of age groups.

On another note, I am thrilled to announce that all Spinlight Studio apps will be on sale for $0.99 until Mother's Day, May 12th. Now is the time to try these apps if readers have not already, you will be happy you did.

DragonBox+ Algebra Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 30th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.

This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.

This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players' progress - ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.

The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.

This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.

It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.

I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = ...” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.

To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic - a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.

I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.

Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math - an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.

I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.

I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.

I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.

Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra - still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.

I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.

I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.

One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems - an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.

Mystery Math Town Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 17th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Mystery Math Town is a wonderful new math app that will engage both children and adults.

I am really impressed with this app, as players here guide a friendly ghost who has agreed to help release fireflies that have been caught in jars hidden among rooms and outdoor spaces of wonderfully stylized houses - per the plead of their firefly mom as seen in an introduction to this creative math application.

To do so, one will need to gather numbers that are to be used in math problems that one will come across in order to enter or leave any of the rooms of outside spaces connected to the house, be it by simply crossing over a threshold of a door, climbing up or down stairs or a ladder or even levitating outside the house as well as other unique ways of coming and going.

The amount of time and care that went into the developing of this app is quite obvious as these houses, eight in all, are stunning in their details and decorations, creating a Victorian feel with damask wallpaper, vintage artifacts and other interior design details lush with colors and elements that will make users want to keep exploring and solving math problems. Do tap around the page as sometimes the objects found include mild sound effects or other interactions that add even more richness to this app. Also note the portraits found within these houses that will sound when touched a well.

I also greatly appreciate how these math problems are presented as the answers are given and users will need to come up with the numbers to get to this sum, working in reverse - wonderfully unique as well as another level of thought process for children as well as adults.

I definitely found myself strategizing while playing this game, especially on the harder levels as the houses one must search are quite cavernous with multiple rooms and levels that one is best not getting lost in as one looks for numbers to collect and fireflies to free. This game makes me flex my sense of direction as well as my math skills.

Because one can hold only a set number or numbers, players will find themselves leaving numbers where they found them, deciding what numbers may be more helpful instead of redundant, back-tracking their steps to find the leftover digits that they now realize are needed to unlock areas of these homes.

Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are all possible functions covered as well as including numbers represented as dice and tallies, which are possible options as this app nicely allows adults to personalize the experience and difficulty level from older grade school up to adult.

I found that reverse engineering these math problems, even on the easiest level, was a thoughtful challenge - great for not only learning basic, beginner math but also for exercising knowledge of math foundations as these fundamentals will help students do the work of more advanced math with greater ease.

The amount of content is vast, and I enjoy the fact that even when the fireflies have all been released, one can go back to collect gold coins via the same gameplay to collect the portraits found in these homes to one’s personal gallery where these paintings can again be tapped to hear witty comments.

Not enough can be said in terms of the quality of the look of this app as well as the usefulness in terms of working on math problems. I found myself deeply engrossed in these houses, enthralled with the styling of each room I came across.

I cannot recommend this app more to both parents as well as teachers, especially with the inclusion of multiple players being able to keep their games separate - a necessity as few can finish this lengthy app in one sitting.

I have had a few issues with this Mystery Math Town crashing, but luckily this app saves the progress of the player mid-game, allowing me to pick up where I left off seamlessly. I would, however, love to see this issue smoothed out if possible.

I have few other notes for this game, but I would love to be able to watch the plea from the mother firefly at will instead of only as an introduction at the beginning of this app, as I found this scene quite impressive in terms of style and even emotion.

Artgig Studio, the developer of this app, has a nice collection of other educational titles as well that I can also recommend, some of which have also been reviewed here at GiggleApps. They are worth looking into, and I am very much looking forward to new apps by this developer in the future. The love that has been put into Mystery Math Town is obvious and is absolutely worth the purchase.

Bugs and Numbers Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on March 13th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bugs and Numbers is a delightful universal application - a collection of bug-themed mini-games that re-enforces beginner math concepts as well as other subjects such as understanding one’s left and right, shape matching, sorting, sequencing and tracing of numbers and shapes.

Each one of these 18 mini-games includes a bright and engaging look, oftentimes including bug elements as well as an interesting dichotomy as some of these sections are quite beautiful to look at, while others include distressed qualities that show bugs in less than pristine conditions that children may also find interesting.

Start playing through these games randomly, or enter the menu to choose the game to explore with a tap.

I admire how each of these mini-games increases in difficulty from start to finish, yet many of these games do not include specific goals or end points, such as the matching shapes section where one matches magnets - first with numbers and shapes, leading into an advanced exercise of matching halves of magnets such as bugs or robots - which can be tricky. Presumably, one pairs as many matches as possible in a given amount of time, yet without parameters flushed out, it can be hard to understand why the game ends without warning.

It is also worth noting that these games do not include instructions while a few do give hints on game play, so parents may want to use this app with their children before young ones explore this app on their one, and it would be nice if different children could have their own accounts to keep track of their progress throughout these games, collecting bugs along the way as one masters these mini-games.

I also wish one could silence the cheering heard as one finishes these sections - a sound that to me is grating, to say the least. Preferably these cheers could be muted separately from the music and other sound effects as the included music heard in these sections is nicely done with a few areas that are quite beautiful - if not a little suspenseful and dark, like music one may hear in a carnival.

Even with the notes made, there is such a wide range of mini-games to choose from that this is an easy app to recommend. I have enjoyed some of these areas more than others, with my favorites being the science section with lab measurements as well as the “Garden Patters,” which is part maze and part pattern recognition.

Bugs and Numbers is an app in a series of bug-themed apps such as this which are equally content-rich and wonderful to look at and explore. I can recommend each of these apps. If interested, look for my review for the Bugs and Buttons app as well. Bugs and Bubbles will reviewed by GiggleApps in the future as well.

Futaba Classroom Games For Kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 25th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Futaba Classroom Games For Kids is a unique game app for children, educational as well as fun.

This app, a digital quiz game for both multi - as well as single players, really stands out because an adult can program the questions children answer to a wide age range of abilities from preschool age through the 10th grade as well as easy, medium or hard questions for these grades.

Up to four players can gather around the iPad which shows a question center screen, slowly revolving so all players have a chance to see and then answer the question with a tap from one of three possible choices at the bottom of their place at the screen.

A practice mode is also available that allows one player to use this app by himself.

The look of this app is quite nice, clean and sophisticated with a natural wood look to the background of this application as well as very nice music included to listen to - both relaxing as well as adding a bit of suspense to these games.

Also nicely styled are the questions which are included within a circle. With each correct answer, an area of this circle is highlighted until ten questions are answered correctly and a “Futaba” is earned - a citrus fruit that is a consistent theme in this educational app.

From animal recognition to the Table of Elements, different shapes to counting money and even learning about languages different from English, this app covers a vast array of questions that can be included.

It took me some time to understand how to create my own games using the filters provided, and I personally think it is easier to choose from all the subjects available instead of trying to filter these choices by grade or difficulty, as after going down the extensive list, I can simply check off the questions I would like included - down to the specific questions, and not just what themes to focus on.

I admire how multiple games can be created to allow children of different abilities to play this app at different times, making it a great choice for school settings as well as use in the home, especially for families with children of different ages and subjects to focus on.

Be it alone or with others, I can see children of all ages as well as adults enjoying these quizzes a great deal. I also appreciate how the plethora of questions for children from preschool into high school allows this app to grow with children, as well as to be a great teaching tool for the classroom as well.

The Math Tree Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 24th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I recently checked out the educational apps section of iTunes and found The Math Tree, a universal app which is prominently displayed. I am always on the look out for intuitive math apps for the youngest app user, yet at first glance The Math Garden did not stand out as highly unique among other math apps that also teach beginner math concepts.

Looking closer, I saw that this app is developed by Bellamon, whose earlier apps, Shape-o’s - a tangram app and Counting Caterpillar - a counting app, are wonderful kids' apps as well as highly stylized. I knew that The Math Tree would be a good bet.

I must say that although the images from iTunes show the basic game play of this app where one subtracts fruit from the math tree center screen or adds birds to the tree to teach addition, the small pictures do not do this app justice as the pleasing textures of felt and other materials can’t be seen to show how visually interesting this app is.

I do love the look of this app, bright and colorful, with a wonderful collage effect using cut paper and fabric that makes me smile.

Narration is included that explains what is being asked of players, also seen as a math problem in the sky above the leaves of the tree prominently displayed. Children are asked not only to take away or add objects, but also included is a mixture of fruit or birds - be it black birds or owls, adding to the details used as well as teaching about various fruits or birds and following specific directions.

Tap the fruit to remove, and one will notice that a shadow is created at the bottom of the screen where one places the fruit being subtracted or up in the tree where one is asked to place the bird as well as music sounds heard with each tap. When the problem is complete, four numbers are offered as the player finds the correct answer.

I especially like that one can also tap to count the fruit or birds left in the tree, truly counting to the correct number.

Relaxing music is included that parents will enjoy listening to as well as subtle ambient forest sounds such as birds in the distance. I also enjoy the bunnies that hold up presumably a blanket or basket to catch the falling fruit - cute details that really make this app delightful to look at and spend time with, as these animals move slightly, enough to add a subtle humor that I greatly appreciate.

Although this app may become monotonous to adults over long periods of time, I do not see this as a flaw for babies and toddlers who are new to early math concepts as this app is gentle and sweet with nothing added that could become a distraction.

The app is very nicely realized for being an early math app focusing on easy addition and subtraction as well as teaching about zero - a concept that is not always included in this level of first apps for children.

After four questions are answered, the section being worked on is complete and includes a trophy for children to momentarily enjoy, but it is unclear is the questions become harder as subsequent rounds of this game are played. It may be helpful to parents in the future if one could choose to focus on addition, subtraction or a mixture of questions to be included.

Even with this note, The Math Tree is an app of very high quality for a beginner math app. The sense of style is great, with relaxing art and music that can be enjoyed by all ages.

My son - now five - has math abilities past what is focused on in this app, so it is quite a compliment that my son found it engaging as he, a seasoned app user, may reject an app that he deems to be too young for him.

We have also greatly enjoyed other Bellamon apps and will be reviewing their phonics app, Word Grab Phonics, soon here at GiggleApps. If interested, do check out the other reviews of Bellamon apps here at GiggleApps as well.

Team Umizoomi Carnival HD Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 11th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Team Umizoomi Carnival HD is an application which brings the hit TV show Team Umizoomi to life in this interactive storybook application. A version of this app is also available for iPhone.

My son really enjoys this TV show which focuses on early math skills in a way that is upbeat, bright and very engaging as the audience is asked to participate, leaving silent pauses during the show while children answer. My son always responds with exuberance so I was eager to review this application allowing him to interact with this story, both by furthering the story as well as other interactive hotspots.

Much like the TV show, the gang within this tale goes on an adventure where needed - here to find a boy’s lost stuffed bunny left at a carnival. Help the Umi Team as they ask questions of other characters, gather information and finally solve the case of the missing bunny.

Some nice visuals are included as educational tools, such as "over, under, around and through" with the use of fun foods and carnival balloons, a great explanation of these actions. There is also a puzzle one must complete to create an airplane to ultimately save bunny, which children will enjoy.

I do wish for re-play value that some of the other details could be mixed up a bit, as I enjoy needing to find and tap the white bird with two feathers to ask for her help or completing a pattern to stop the merry-go-round - great for number and color recognition as well as basic cognition, but it would be if these colors, numbers or other details could be random so the experience and answers needed would be different each time this tale is read.

I do also wish this story was a little longer, but it may suit those with short attention spans nicely. A few arcade-style balloon popping games are included that aid in number awareness as well as a sticker section.

Even with these notes, this story will be appealing to children who are fans of the show as well as other young children interested in beginner math concepts as well as colors, shapes and going on a helpful adventure.

Grandpa’s Workshop Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 28th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Grandpa’s Workshop is a fun interactive app which teaches about the tools found in a workshop as well as learning about simple math concepts.

I really enjoy how this app works, as a fun older gentleman walks children through workshop-related activities such as identifying tools, painting different projects or mending broken objects jigsaw style.

Simple math-related activities are also included such as using a tape measure to measure boards, cutting boards into fractions such as halves or quarters, choosing the correct number of screws or other parts grandpa needs as well as a spot-the-difference section involving tools that may be similar or different.

Young children will enjoy the quick pace of these mini-games and the nice variety of questions which are included.

My favorite activities include cutting boards with the drag of a finger as this not only teaches fractions in an immersive way but brings some fun hands-on details children will expect from a workshop application.

I also really enjoy the short videos found throughout this app that give children a close-up view of tools at work, including power tools that one could not get this close to safely watch in real life - great moments children will really enjoy with excellent narration by Grandpa, who is very articulate in explaining the tools being used in each video as well as mentioning safety concerns such as wearing goggles when using a saw, which I greatly appreciate.

I would love to see more of these videos as well as giving children the chance to re-watch their favorite clips from the menu page where parents get to choose what types of activities their children will be working on.

Other cute moments are when Grandpa asks for a “High Five” bringing his hand close to the screen, allowing the user taps Grandpa’s hand. Grandpa also performs short dances as a reward, as well as slowly builds the player a club house, allowing children to pick out different elements such as door, windows or paint colors to keep children interested.

It surprises me how there are not more workshop apps available in iTunes because play tools and workbenches are utterly popular among preschoolers. I would always love to see more hands-on activities past the sawing of boards, but nevertheless children will enjoy Grandpa’s Workshop, learning about tools as well as early math.

Juicy Math Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 15th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Juicy Math is a simple yet colorful math app that will help children practice addition and subtractions.

This app is very intuitive with a crisp and clean style, as children add or subtract fruits seen on tiles. To answer, select the colorful tile found right with the corresponding answer one is looking for.

I enjoy the wood grain seen throughout the backgrounds of these tiles and the screen in general, adding a sophisticated look to this low-tech app. Although not as unique a math app as others out there, there is something to be said for having children work with straightforward math problems that they will encounter in school.

What I appreciate most within this app is the ability to tap the fruits one is counting, highlighting them as well as adding satisfying “click” sounds and mild movement as the number of fruits get tallied to the total number now seen in the tile as well.

It is also great that while subtracting, after the tapping of the second section of fruit one is subtracting becomes highlighted and tallied, the fruits from the first tile become de-highlighted with the number of fruits one is subtracting, creating a very effective visual for children to understand this early math concept.

I would also love to see an option during addition to have the tallies continue from one tile to the next in order to help children not only come up with the two numbers one is adding, but the totals of each of these questions as well, for children who are very new at counting to clearly explain how addition works.

Having said this, Juicy Math is a nice choice to aid children in visualizing addition and subtraction. I can see this app be useful at home, school, and in a home schooling setting.

For those interested, the related app, Juicy Math Multiplication and Division, is also available.

Dinosaur Train Mesozoic Math Adventures Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 12th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Dinosaur Train Mesozoic Math Adventures is a fun new math app for iPad that will teach math concepts in a way that children will find engaging.

My son really enjoys dinosaurs in general as well as being a fan of the Dinosaur Train, a PBS kids show that this app is based on, as well as math in general from a young age. Because of this, my boy was very excited to hear of this new math app and has been enjoying this app a great deal recently.

Dinosaur Train Mesozoic Math Adventures consists of four main areas.

Through the Window is a very nice counting game, allowing children to count the various objects one sees from different dinosaur periods, such as rocks, trees or bodies of water.

I enjoy the perspective of looking out of the train window at different dinosaur time periods after going through a time tunnel, as they are conversationally asked to pick out different numbers of seen items by dinosaurs Buddy and Tina, ultimately including two items to count per game in the hardest of three levels of difficulty.

Don’s Collection is an area consisting of Don the Dino showing off his various collections, grouped together by type and shown lined up in columns. Listen to Don’s questions about each of these collections as he may ask which column is greater or less than.

This section contains three levels, and I like how the levels vary from easy to medium to hard. In the simplest area, two columns are compared, and the questions can be answered without counting because it is easy to see that one section has many more or less than another, allowing children to follow along with these concepts even if they are new to addition.

In the moderately difficult section, three columns are in use, and the amounts found on each column become closer in number, making counting a necessity and include three columns to focus on.

Later, the number of columns increases to four, and the math becomes more advanced and includes simple ratios such as which column contains half of one or twice of another.

Another area of this app is Life Cycles, asking children to sequence different images that express different points in the life cycles of various dinosaur-related creatures.

I really enjoy this section as children are exposed to the word “hypotheses” as well as rewarded with a short animated sequence which gives more information about these animals, with excellent narration also offering fun facts that vary in detail from the easy to difficult sections.

The sophistication in terms of the sequencing also increases nicely, from three simple pictures often including an egg, small and large animals to organize to animals with more of a metamorphosis, and later adding an unrelated image to sort out as well.

Life Cycles is my favorite section of this app as I enjoy the animation and narration given that explain a great deal about the growth cycles of animals that are both enjoyable as well as educational.

A sticker section, Build a Scene, is also included which allows children to decorate scenes from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous time periods. Although some stickers are included outright, children will gain new stickers from completing the other sections of this app.

Nice narration is also included within this sticker section which briefly describes these different time periods, but I feel that this element could have gone further with the conversational dinosaur information offered as I think this is a great way to engage children, further building on their vocabulary and listening comprehension.

Children are also able to save their landscapes to their iPad as well as continue working on their backgrounds later.

Parents and teachers will appreciate the section of this app explaining each section, game play and take-away points in a very straight-forward fashion that I greatly appreciate.

Dinosaur Train Mesozoic Math Adventure is a nice early math application for young children which focuses not on math concepts but on their ability to listen to directions as well.

This app will be a hit with children already fond of Dinosaur Train but will be of interest to other children not already familiar with them, as these dinosaurs who guide children through these exercises are inviting and colorful which is also seen throughout this app. I would love to see more narration included about these grand creatures as well as the time periods in which they lived.

Squeebles Fractions Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 18th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Squeebles Fractions is an interesting app to help children to understand fractions, creating a bright, colorful world in which to practice their math skills.

I admire the cake theme found throughout this app, as players are able to, within the first section of this app, serve pieces of a cake to waiting monster-like Squeebles characters which correspond to a fraction seen on the screen, really helping children visualize the fractions they are working with.

Two levels of difficulty are included, but I actually find that the “harder” level is possibly simpler as these fractions tend to be like “7/10,” allowing children to count both the total pieces of cake available as well as the number of pieces from this total to be given to a waiting Squeeble - unlike the “easier” fractions that may ask for “1/4” a piece of the cake out of eight pieces, asking children to understand the need to double the pieces required from the total out of eight.

Three other games are included, each with a variety of difficulty levels such as Tricky Pairs where players need to match fractions together which correspond, i.e. 8/10 to 4/5 or 1/4 and 3/12.

In Think Big, children will need to drag a cake to the Squeeble thinking of the bigger fraction, be it 1/3 or 5/11.

Super Sums asks children to add fractions together such as 1/6 and 2/6, giving them answers that will make them think, such as 1/2, not simply 3/6.

Time is kept within these exercises, and children are rewarded for the many correct answers within a given time.

Achievements are offered for high scores as well as trophies, and children also earn cake entries to The Cake Show - a scored contest that children will design cakes for, choosing for their fantasy cake such elements as basic cake mix, filling, icing and topping.

Children hopefully will find their cakes being judged by these silly monster creatures fun, especially as they prefer combinations typically not within the human palette, such as ketchup-and-mustard cake filling, bringing some whimsy into this useful math app as well as tying in a brief storyline about the Maths Monster stealing the Squeebles' ingredients and entry tokens.

I would, however, like to have an option of removing the scoring system altogether, allowing children a chance to take as much time as they may need without feeling rushed.

This is especially important as this app does not give much in the way of an explanation of the math one takes part in. Although a great teaching tool to practice fractions, the question of “how” and “why” is not fully explored.

This is not a flaw, really, as this app can be enjoyed by children with a basic understanding of fractions. It would be nice, however, to have the time to fully explain the concept of fractions and cutting the cake into pieces without a timer clicking and counting down until this section times out and the activity is over.

My son has been a real math and science kid for some time now, and I have begun to explain the concept of fractions as we cut real food such as apples or cakes of our own, as well as cutting food. I am sure he would also really enjoy this application, but at his young age of four and a half, the timer does not benefit him, and I am sure this is true for other children as well.

It is also worth noting that although both US as well as UK instructions are included, there is no narration of the included text, so users will need to be able to read these instructions to themselves or be given instructions by an adult.

I do find the font used here to be less easy to read than others - something to think about for a possible update or just to keep in mind for a future application.

Even with these notes, the look of Squeebles Fractions is brightly colored, cheerful and fun. I really enjoy the cake serving to express fractions as well as the other fraction games that this app includes.

I really think this app will be of help to students, but it would be wonderful to have the option to hide the score-keeping to allow children to solve these questions at their own pace.

Marble Math Junior Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 15th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Marble Math Junior is a really enjoyable universal math app that will engage children.

The basic game play of Marble Math is quite simple as children drag or roll a marble to the corresponding answers to varied math and related questions through a maze, sometimes avoiding pitfalls or rolling over bonus objects as well. Topics include simple addition, equivalences using items such as numbers and dice and sequencing or shape recognition.

Children will enjoy the bright colors this app includes, such as the bright orange background of these mazes, fun upbeat musical elements and other sound effects, as well as the utterly satisfying rolling sound of these marbles, encouraging children to practice their math skills.

I am fond of how many options are available to personalize this experience such as the ability to drag the marble with a finger or pick up the device and tilt it like the classic labyrinth game.

Three levels of difficulty can also be chosen, and parents can also choose what types of questions to focus on, while children can create their own avatars by sliding to choose different hair/hat and eyes and mouth choices - a fun inclusion that allows different players to keep their games separate.

I also really appreciate how the instructions for each maze can be tapped to be hear, allowing children who are not yet reading to work with this application as well as giving children a chance to re-try problems they got wrong, a chance to be shown the correct answer with a tap, as well as the ability to skip questions if they feel the need.

Score is kept, not for correct answers exactly, as the score can also be impacted positively or negatively by the additional details found within these mazes or just momentarily complicate the rolling of the marble by such things as slipping on goo or sliding on a banana.

Each game is also relatively short - great for modest attention spans, although children will most likely play round after round, as the tactile nature of this app will be mildly reminiscent to some of an arcade game, without any over-stimulating aspects parents may want to avoid, yet with just enough pinball elements to make me smile.

Marble Math Jr may not actually teach children how to count or perform addition, but this is a very nice app to encourage children to practice the skills they have already acquired - be it pre-math skills like shape recognition or simple addition.

Do note that a related app, Marble Math, is also available with the same gameplay but includes a more advanced selection of questions including fractions, Roman numerals and the adding and subtracting of two digit numbers in the easy level, as well as tackling multiplication, division and more in the more difficult sections.

Marble Math also includes more sophisticated obstacles to keep older children and even adults interested as they work on their math skills.

Marble Math Junior and Marble Math are both apps that make practicing math skills quite enjoyable. For this reason, I recommend them both depending on the age and skill level of the player.

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 2nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy is an interesting math application for young children, teaching basic addition in a way that is fun and engaging.

As the name may suggest, this app focuses on a hungry guppy who would like to be fed the dots or numbers that float by which correlate to the number or dot seen on his chest.

Three sections are included using either a dot system for children who are new to learning their numbers, a section which mixes dots and numbers, as well as one solely using numbers to match.

I really enjoy this app. The look of this app is lovely, taking place at the bottom of the ocean, including stylized sea life such as beautiful, vibrant anemone as well as rays of sunlight penetrating through the water to the ocean floor for a very nice effect. Some fun animation is included such as what looks like tube sponges shooting out the number or dots encapsulated in circles, making the dots appear as the nuclei within fish eggs for hungry a guppy to eat - a nice effect as this is the way this guppy gets bigger after being fed the correct dots or numbers as is the way his mouth opens to devour these numbers or dots, momentarily seen in this fish’s belly.

To play, one may need to add dots, numbers, or both together with the drag of fingers to create the sum one is looking for, listening to relaxing yet upbeat music featuring the calypso drum along the way.

I also appreciate how the use of dots is a nice primer in subitizing, as children will quickly learn how to manage these dots without counting them directly, as well as allow children who do not know their numbers a chance to match these dot formations instead of the simple counting to be learned later within this app.

Children of all ages will especially like how they can work at their own pace making combinations - working slowly or quickly, making this app fun for a wide range of abilities. As an adult, I enjoy feeding the hungry guppy as quickly as I could as a simple yet fun brain teaser.

Please note that another related app, Motion Math: Hungry Fish consists of the same basic game play but is more challenging and advanced - a nice choice for older children up through adult and contains in-app purchases of modes focusing on different math functions such as subtraction or multiplication.

I am happy to say that this app, geared towards toddlers and preschool aged children, does not contain any links or in-app purchases, but it would be nice to teach basic subtraction this same way - be it a free update, separate application, or hidden in-app purchase that children are unlikely to come across on their own.

Murky Reef 1st - 2nd Grade Reading, Science and Math Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 9th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Murky Reef 1st - 2nd Grade Reading, Science and Math is an excellent learning app for critical thinking as well as specific topics such as science, math and reading comprehension.

Parents will appreciate how this app incorporates the Common Core standards for Grades 1 and 2 while keeping children engaged and entertained, especially as children prepare for school to start again soon and need to begin to get back to the business of focusing on school work.

Murky Reef is a collection of 22 interactive games which teach a great deal about the animals of the coral reef as well as include math, logic and language exercises.

The look of this app is appealing with simple, animated sea creature characters, sometimes with included interactions as well. Narration leads players through these game activities that have a nice level of variety, both in subject matter as well as interactivity. One can follow through this app, continuing from one activity to the next as well as choosing favorite sections from a menu. It is also nice for adults to see a report of children’s progress through this app.

Murky Reef includes the re-occurring characters of Puff, a puffer fish and narrator of this app, as well as a hungry shark named Ogge, on which these games are focused, as Ogge is always looking to attack the other fish in the sea. Correct answers will allow Puff to shoot lava at Ogge to keep from attacking, creating a fun level of suspense and a fun way to time these mini-games.

This app also includes a nice reward for collecting fish related to the areas achieved in this app, allowing one to learn more about these sea creatures as one adds to his collection.

I think this app is a very nice choice for first and second grade students, but I think younger children, with the aid of an adult could also enjoy this app as well as slightly older children or those with delays who may need educational apps for a specific age. This app may be geared towards 6-9 year olds, but it will not condescend to older children who need extra help in any of these subjects.

I do wish, however, that the answer could be displayed if time runs out and Ogee attacks. Personally, I have really enjoyed these mini-games, especially those involving reading and listening comprehension, as well as the included videos from YouTube available if one is online. However, I had trouble deciphering the directions from the “Hidden Addition” and “Hidden Subtraction” as these areas worked in ways that were counter-intuitive to my thinking, although the math being taught here is quite useful. Because of this, although "help" sections do exist for these mini-games, I wish there was a feature which demonstrates the basic game play of these areas.

Even with this note, this app is great for families, especially those who home school as well as those in typical school settings. Teachers will especially appreciate the ability to set up accounts for up to ten children, keeping their progress separate as well individually selecting the speed at which Ogee attacks, thus personalizing the level of difficulty.

For these reasons, it is easy to recommend Murky Reef 1st - 2nd Grade Reading, Science and Math as a great interactive learning app, especially for those who would like to incorporate Common Core standards into their children’s daily lives.

Little Digits Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 7th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Little Digits is a charming app for iPad, a lovely counting and basic math app which is hands-on in a way children will find new and engaging.

This app consists of three main sections: counting, addition and subtraction.

When the counting mode is opened, players will be greeted by a friendly “0” with a lovely face consisting of a blue zebra pattern, eyes, fanged mouth, horns and the negative space of the “0” creating the nose.

Notice that if one touches the screen with a finger, the number changes to number one, and if two fingers make contact with the screen, number two appears on the screen and so forth up to number ten.

Each of these numbers has its own sense of quirky styling including a friendly creature with a face which creates charming anthropomorphic numbers complete with fun and jazzy upbeat music and bright background color choices. The movement of these quirky faces such as the eyes blinking really brings these numbers to life and adds to the overall richness of this experience.

I really enjoy how interactive this application is, and I think this method of teaching on fingers or “little digits ” as this app is aptly titled is a great way to teach counting to young children, as well as getting them to move their fingers in a sequential way that will also work their fine muscles.

When exploring this app for the first time, I thought of my favorite math teacher, who insisted that her students count on their fingers proudly out in the open, in response to having to hide the fact that she counted on her fingers when she was in school as a girl. To this day, I am a proud finger counter, really appreciating the concept of this interesting, intuitive application.

The addition and subtraction sections work much the same. At first, a number is given that children can count up to as they add numbers into the screen. Then they are asked to either add or take away more fingers, being able to count positive or negative until they reach the correct sum.

As much as I love this idea, I do think that some young children many have trouble with the dexterity needed to get their fingers to move the way they want, such as placing solely four fingers on the screen and then lifting two off the page. I do think this app may be a great exercise for some children as well, and two hands can be used to create the finger combinations as well. Adults may want to help their children into correct positions, or demonstrate these sections themselves if they see fit.

This is also a unique app to teach subitizing, as I have long stopped counting my hand of fingers as five as well as other finger groupings - lessons children may learn on their own, but also interesting lessons to teach with this unique application.

I also like that a short video is included of a child playing with the counting section of this app - a nice clip that shows children how this app is used, including the detail that this app is best used with the iPad, specifically being placed on the table instead of holding the device in an upright fashion.

Because this is such a unique, yet common sense approach to counting, this app may be of interest to special education teachers as well, either as an early math app or possibly as a nice finger exercise app as well.

What truly makes this app special is not just the thoughtful method of teaching but the wonderful sense of style, cute yet odd-looking creatures kids will love, simple fun animations, fun and engaging background music, as well as a great use of color that is found throughout.