CONCEPT: Deconstruct worded math problems and then solve them using a unique variation on the whiteboard app.
DELIVERY:Helping kids get to grips with mathematical concepts is one thing but often helping them apply these abstractions within the confines of worded problems can prove far more challenging. For all the math-based games available on the App Store, wouldn't it be great if there was an app that could support this crucial aspect of learning? Wouldn't it be great if it could also contain a set of digital tools to support their calculations? And wouldn't it be wonderful if that same app could allow them record their process to reinforce and their methodology? Am I asking too much? Perhaps not, thanks to the superb Math Shake from Top Storey Apps.
The clean, crisp design opens to a simple menu of three icons. The first is the core area and allows access to a vast bank of worded problems. Before this though you are given the option of six different difficulty levels (from beginner to genius!) so a wide range of abilities are catered for effectively. The personalisation doesn't stop there though as the next screen allows you to select which of the four operations you would like the problems to utilise. You can choose one, you can choose them all - it's completely up to you and thus the use of the app can be tailored to meet the teaching objective currently being covered.
The delivery of the problems themselves is very clever. The worded problem is at the top of the screen whilst at the bottom are coloured squares that represent the different parts of the equation. You literally drag the numbers from the problem and they turn into the relevant digits for you to insert into the equation. Then in my favourite part of the interface, you tap on the word(s) in the problem that represent the operation. The screen zooms in and you have to identify which of the four operations is being used by clicking its symbol. This can then be inserted into the problem as well. Students can also click the speech bubble icon to hear the problem aloud or the lightbulb icon to bring up a guide that leads them through the process.
Now at this point, I'd be happy enough with this app. It does a great job of helping students evaluate and decompose worded maths, so I fully expected at this point just to be prompted to type in the answer. Instead the equation is transported into a completely separate area that takes the form of a digital whiteboard app, providing a working area for students to solve it. You have access to standard tools like pens, text and simple shapes but also a range of mathematical apparatus. These include coloured counters, number lines, donut graphs, ten frames and arrays. Any tool can be selected and harnessed, either by teacher prompt or free selection, allowing students to develop calculation strategies. Upon solving the problem, you finally enter the answer via a numerical pad and then move on to the next problem.
Of course since you can access the whiteboard independently from the app's main menu, you can utilise it outside of the app's problem solving activities. Think of it like Explain Everything but with added mathy goodness. This alone makes the app a valuable teaching tool across the maths curriculum.
The app even has a teacher section complete with a full rundown of each difficulty level and the concepts covered. From here you can also access a bank of teacher resources as well as a handy FAQ. They really do have you covered!
LIMITATIONS:This is one of those rare times where I genuinely can't think of a limitation for an app.
CONCLUSION: Absolutely superb. An essential app for the maths classroom and one I cannot recommend enough. 5/5
Developing mathematical problem solving skills Decomposing and evaluating worded math problems Developing calculation strategies and the use of tools to support calculation As a digital working space Screencasting in maths