Saturday, May 19, 2012

Math Evolve

Math Evolve - a basic operations fluency game for iOS. Free Lite version to try out, full version $1.99.

Somehow Math Evolve came across my radar again this week; it's an iOS app for elementary math. I'm always willing to give those things a try. Tired, frustrated with other stuff, I tweet:

And didn't think any more about it.

The next day, Adam tweets back, very politely. Immediately I feel like a heel. If I was speaking to someone in person, I wouldn't express myself that way. So I want to apologize to Adam here.

I had high expectations because the app store page has the following:
★ Winner of BEST EDUCATIONAL GAME OF 2011 (2nd Place) in the Best App Ever Awards.
★ “The holy grail of edutainment math apps.” Editors Choice, 5/5 Score -Best Apps for Kids 
In Math Evolve you are an alien organism, completing number sentences on a quest to grow and return to your people. At the beginning of a level you fill in the first blank, then the second blank after the operation, then finally the result. Later you pick the first blank and the computer provides the second. (I always get the first one of those wrong as I don't notice when the switch occurs.)  All the while you are dodging combatants and trying to shoot them out of the way. You control your position on the screen by moving your character with a touch. Finally the boss appears and asks you to compute particulars.

Another part of why I expected/hoped for more is that it is slick. Trying to develop ParabolaX (or rather, watch while Alejo and Kevin program ParabolaX) has given me an appreciation for the work that goes into slickness in iOS.  Is there a role for a practice app? I think so, but I don't value it anywhere nearly as highly as one that helps students learn. After all, if they need practice, typically there's room for greater understanding.

I'd love a practice game that gave more for students to notice. Like asking 7+3, 6+4, 5+5, ... or 4x5, 5x5, 6x5... or 5x6, 6x6, 6x7... Noticing and generalizing are things that I value more about math.

Given the context, the practice mode could have meaning of the operation.  Gathering or eliminating to add or subtract, repeated groups for multiplication... lots of possibilities. I do like how at first you're gathering all the equation elements, then the game fills in the second spot, then the boss poses a computation. The incorrect answers are not particularly problematic, and the boss doesn't seem to use missed problems to pose problems. Maybe at higher levels? Ways for added difficulty could be including choices that are not computable, such as choices between 3, 6 and 7 when you have 21÷___.  I did only play the Lite version, so possibly some of these things come later.

Boss level.
I love how open and interested Adam is in improving the game, the context and game mechanics are well developed and suitable, and the game is fun enough that students will be happy to play. And he is obviously a far better internet citizen than I am, but hopefully he's taught me to watch my oafish responses.

As I think about evaluating math games and apps
Objective: facts practice, four operations, including negative numbers.
Gameplay: fun enough. Think Galaga/shoot 'em up.
Aesthetic: great. Cute characters, good effects.
Pedagogy: beyond difficulty selection, no visible fact strategies or support for learning. Minimal math practices.

I'd love to hear what you think of the app, and what do you feel like would make for a good facts learning game.

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