App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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As readers who follow my posts may know, my son’s favorite subject is math, and he is eager to practice these skills whenever he has a chance. One of his favorite ways is making a bee-line for any app that includes “math” in the title. A new favorite of his is Montessori Math City, which has strengthened his ability not only to count to one thousand, but to be able to build different sums with the use of smaller numbers in a way that is actually quite open-ended. There is also a city area he can build within, providing motivation to continue working with this app. I must admit that when I sat down to review it I was intimidated, because without a Montessori background I felt at a loss to explain the goings-on within this app in the technical terms that one may expect. Although I don’t find the gathering of correct words intuitive to properly explain what this app has to offer, I must remember that my son does find this app utterly intuitive to use.
Two sections are available: Montessori Golden Beads and Number Blocks. Within Golden Beads, one uses beads to count, first from one to nine and later to use what is called a “bar” of ten golden beads, also including a one hundred square and a one thousandth cube to further learn about counting as well as understanding the decimal system. Number Blocks are also included where numbers are associated with blocks that children will add together until they reach their goal. Depending on the size of the number one is working towards, children may have blocks to choose from that equal one hundred or ten as well as numbers from one to nine to add together to create the larger number in question. Later, a number will be partially counted up with children filling the remaining units until the goal sum has been reached.
A cityscape is included where children can add buildings to this landscape by working on the math areas. The look of this city is interesting and architectural, which I appreciate. Single story homes are first offered but later larger buildings, trees, cars, and other vehicles, as well as institutions such as hospitals or other important structures like skyscrapers are also included. There are also a few famous icons such as Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s Empire State Building.
I admire the look of this section at it takes itself seriously, devoid of the childish, overly cartoony drawings that can be a turn-off in areas such as this. Fun details have not been forgotten however, such as working fountains to beautify one’s space, novelty trucks that will make children smile, and building facades that come alive with windows arranging themselves to create silly faces. One is able to demolish a building with a tap of dynamite, allowing one to reclaim an option to rebuild later - a fun way to re-organize one’s personal urban area.
My son has really taken to this app, using it often and amassing quite a landscape that he is proud of. And he continues to work hard within these math exercises in order to earn more city elements. I admire that after using this app, my boy was able to transition what he learned to work with money easily, making change like a seasoned shopkeeper after a short time. I am impressed with the length of time he will work on math within this app as more of a relaxing exercise than a lesson he needs to work on because of academic struggles. It kept him subdued enough that I felt the need to check on him while using this app, being too quiet for his own good, simply to find him adding unit blocks together as if it was his job.
This app includes narration that guides children through these lessons in a way that any family, including those without Montessori experience, can be confident in their child’s ability to follow along. It helps to build a foundation in the decimal system as well as not only counting to one thousand but the addition that is needed to successfully group units together as well.
I do appreciate how open-ended the adding with the number blocks is as children can add multiple numbers to achieve the same results - an abstract lesson they will benefit from. I must admit that I was turned off at first by the sound of the narrator's voice, which is highly reminiscent of Siri. I have gotten used to this, and it's a detail that my son actually enjoyed a great deal as he can imagine having some working relationship with Siri, which I think makes him feel important. I do enjoy the use of relaxing yet upbeat electronic music and interesting sound effects, keeping these counting exercises light and fun.
It is worth noting that a hidden parents' section of this app is included that will explain these activities using appropriate Montessori terms, also explaining that a pre-requisite for fully benefiting from this app is number recognition and the ability to count from one to nine, with a recommendation of their app Montessori Numberland HD as a starting place if these skills have not yet been mastered. Also of note is the ability to choose fifteen different languages, included quizzes to test the understanding of these lessons as well including up to forty different profiles at once - a wonderful inclusion in class settings.
I am happy to say that that Montessori Math City is a huge hit with my son, and even after he has demonstrated math ability that makes what is being taught here a little obsolete, he keeps coming back for more. Such a foundation in counting and an understanding of math in general will never be time wasted. Montessori Math City is one of few apps where I worry little about screen time while in use, making it an easy app to recommend both for families as well as in classroom settings.