MathLands Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 4th, 2012

MathLands is an interesting app for iPad consisting of interactive math-related games that are focused on problem-solving and logic.

Six sections exist, including versions of well-known puzzles where players must use their critical reasoning skills to solve a problem, be it the famous Tower of Hanoi or others, such as The Frog Puzzle, Magic Shapes, The Water Jug Puzzle and the Ravine Crossing. A section of math comics is also included that aids children in understanding word problems, allowing them the chance to interact with objects to help visualize these problems.

Possibly the most well know puzzle of this app - the Tower of Hanoi - includes three pegs and a pyramid of rings. Players must re-stack this pyramid without larger rings being placed on the smaller rings in the process. This puzzle starts out with three rings to move under six moves and has five levels, ultimately including seven rings to stack in 48 moves.

The Frog Puzzle starts out simply enough as one must make the orange and green swap sides, keeping in mind that they can only leap over one frog at a time and can’t move backwards. This puzzle becomes more difficult as the number of frogs is increased in upper levels.

Magic Shapes asks players to add numbers to empty spaces found within the included shapes. Each side of these shapes contains three numbers that when added, the sums of each of these sides found within the shape should match. The first level of this section begins with a triangle, adding more areas to be filled with numbers as the game progresses and ending with a complicated square with no given numbers as all the areas of this square need to be filled in.

The Water Jug is a classic game where one must ultimately fill a jug with a set amount of water by using two differently sized water jugs to measure against as one may fill, empty or pour water between the two jugs to answer these problems.

Crossing the Ravine consists of children who need to be carried over a ravine by balloon. The number over each child’s head is the number of seconds it will take for them to cross. Get each child over in a given time, understanding that a child will have to travel back with two balloons to pick up the others. The difficulty of this game increases as does the number of kids in each round, keeping in mind that one must complete this task within the parameters of the time giver for each level.

My personal favorite section of this app is the word problem cartoons because being able to see these cartoons really helps visualize the problems at hand. There is some humor as well among these problems that are fun to read, lighting the mood for children who may not be huge fans of this style of math.

The questions themselves vary nicely and each includes movable objects that one can use to help think about the problem - a very nice way to help children truly understand these kinds of problems, very much like the kind of doodles I would create on my own when working on math such as this. Of course with the interactive feature, being able to move these pieces around is very helpful in terms of counting and organizing one’s thoughts.

Each of these puzzles is nice to look at and includes subtle, quiet sound effects and a nice level of interaction that one would expect to find within these activities. The rings from the Tower of Hanoi or the frogs from The Frog Puzzle move with a drag most intuitively, but it can be tricky to pour from one jug to another - something to look into for a possible update in the future.

I like how for the most part, these exercises start out simply enough, but I think it is unrealistic that the average seven year old could solve these problems. A bright ten year old may enjoy this app as well as older children and adults.

It greatly disappoints me, however, that no answers are given except for the Magic Shapes section, adding to the probable frustration one may feel when getting stuck on an upper level. At a minimum, the answers should be provided, but better yet, I would like to see an animated clip showing children how these puzzles have been solved.

For many of these sections, one can Google to learn more about the puzzle at hand as they are often variations on classic mathematical logic games, allowing parents or teachers to look up more information if children are interested. I believe, however, that it is the responsibility of the developer of apps such as this to provide the conclusion to the math activities that they have created that children and adults have invested their time in.

It is possible that families or classrooms that gravitate toward this app may have adults who can help solve these puzzles, but I still find the including of proper explanations for those who need them to be extremely worthwhile, especially as this would allow children to enjoy this app by themselves without needing any adult help to work with this application. A hint button would also be a great inclusion for those who just need a little help without having these puzzles solved for them.

The exception to this concern that I have in general is the Magic Puzzles section as the solution is included with the tap of a button - well-done as the correct numbers can be seen only as long as the button is pressed, making a quick peek for a hint a possibility. I hope the other sections of this app can at some point include answers and hints such as this as well.

Although the lack of answer and help among these games bothers me greatly, I do recommend this app for situations where there is an adult who can help children succeed at these math puzzles. I appreciate that one can either power through all 32 levels of these included games or choose the area of interest and level of ability freely in free-play mode. This app contains a lot of game play and will be greatly enjoyed by the right children who already have a good handle on reasoning and logic games, like feeling challenged and are not easily frustrated. For others, this app includes games that will become exercises in futility more than anything else, so do look into this app if it is a good match for the children in your life, or for logic game-loving adults as well.