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Guest Blog – King of Math: Junior, reviewed by Josh

4 Jan

Hi all, it’s me, Josh again! I’m that guy that works on a maths blog that occasionally hijacks On Sarah’s iPad with maths app reviews. In the past, I’ve done reviews on apps such as DragonBox and Math Formulas. I’m hoping you’ve all had a great holiday, and I’m thinking 2013 will have some wonderful things in store for us all!
Well, today, I’ve borrowed the floor again to review Oddrobo‘s newest collection to the ‘King of Math’ series – King of Math: Junior.

Click the image to go to the iTunes store!

Click the image to go to the iTunes store!

Now, firstly, I would like to make a disclaimer:

The author of this post received a promo code from Oddrobo for this app (probably because of his continual blathering on about random facts about their previous release).

Also, I have one more thing I’d like to say:

The author of this review would like to apologise for surpassing the developer’s high score by 8,000,000 points.

Ok, bragging is over – let’s get on with it!
So, you’re a young child who is just starting to learn how to count. Or you could be learning how to add with your fingers. Maybe you’re someone who wants to practice their maths skills. Young or old, King of Math: Junior has an appeal, whether you have a fondness for maths or not.

As you can see, I did some fairly deep testing.

As you can see, I did some fairly deep testing.

So, much like the original, King of Math: Junior has a variety of books from which challengers can pick from. As this app is a paid app, you don’t have to unlock extra books from in-app purchases (a bonus for parents with kids that know their iTunes password). The topics covered include:

Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division

Geometry, Comparing, Puzzles, Measuring, Fractions

Now, while these topics seem strikingly similar to those covered in King of Math, I can assure you that they aren’t. While the structure of King of Math: Junior is very similar to it’s predecessor (that being, books with multiple chapters that are relevant to the topic), the contents that are covered differ greatly.

For example, let’s do a comparison of a question from King of Math and King of Math: Junior. These are two questions, one from each app.

As you can see, KOMJ attempts to make the question as simple and applicable as possible. By using bright colours, and not including the scorecard in the corner of the screen, I feel it encourages the students to do their best and not to worry about the score they get.

I love how they’ve applied the questions for the most part, to real life concepts. Counting tomatoes or the numbers on a die is a straightforward activity that emphasises learning outside of the app environment. My particular favourite were levels where I had to respond to some sort of visual stimuli – whether it be trying to count the number of lemons in a mix of fruit, or figuring out which player got the cake.

King of Math: Junior is a lot more colourful and detailed than it’s predecessor – which is really, really great. It looks encouraging, and it doesn’t intimidate the user. In my opinion, it appeals to the casual user (who might use it once a day to practice his/her maths skills), the social user (who has a lot of family that want to use the app), and the competitor (Game Center availability).

As much as I love this app, it feels like there’s something missing. There’s plenty of questions, and the replay factor is great, but there are no tutorials showing you what to do. In a sense, I suppose that isn’t such a bad thing – a child can sit with their parents and learn from them. However, it’d be nice to have even a once off tutorial for each exercise, so a student or learner can take a look if they get stuck.

Pros:

  • Colourful, exciting and engaging design and layout.
  • Well developed for younger children, however, it can be used in many applications.
  • Ability to turn off Game Center.
  • Multiple profiles, including in game scoreboards for multiple accounts.

Cons:

  • Lack of tutorials.
  • Lack of a free version – unlike the previous version, there is only a paid version of the app. However, the full version is included (rather than receiving a selection of free books and having to buy the rest).
  • It can be too fun. (I played it for four hours at one point)

Verdict:

King of Math: Junior is an excellent addition to the King of Math series. With its bright colours, engaging design and easy to use features, kids will be sure to like it. This app is a must have for parents with school age children. 🙂

Sarah’s Notes

I have to agree with everything Josh has said about this app.  He gifted it to my family (Thanks again, Josh) and my children love it.  They are motivated to earn the 3 stars for each level and to increase their rank, and they love that they can have individual profiles.  It is our summer holidays here, and I have some “holiday only” games installed on the iPad (such as Angry Birds Star Wars) but they are still choosing to play King of Math: Junior.  I think that speaks for itself.  While the app is wonderful visually, it is a bit disappointing that we can’t manipulate items on the screen, for example squishing each tomato as we count it (just an example, but really tempting) or dragging items to each of the people in the division exercises.  This kind of interaction would make the app more supportive of early learners.  Also, there are no spoken instructions, so you really need to be able to read to use this app, or have someone sitting beside you who can.  Despite these things, King of Math: Junior is an excellent app for consolidating what children have already learned, and my children are loving it.

Title: King of Math: Junior
Developer: Oddrobo Software AB
Price: $1.99
Universal: Will work on the iPad, as well as the iPod Touch/iPhone.

Guest Review by Josh Young – DragonBox and DragonBox+

29 Aug

Hi again!

If you’re wondering who I am, my name’s Josh, and I’ve come across from Mathematical Mischief (again), to bring you another maths app review! 🙂

Today, I’m covering DragonBox and DragonBox+, two apps developed by We Want To Know. They’re a small, French-Norwegian startup who are aiming to develop a new generation of digital learning games. Considering that the App Store is massive, it’s a high target to set in such a diverse environment.

Now, one might think upon opening DragonBox, that it looks nothing like maths. In actuality, it is a very, very, very clever con act. I mean, if it was just a maths app, do you sincerely think that any 8yr old would play it? Instead, the underlying motives of the game are hidden within the mechanics of the game, 🙂

So what is DragonBox?

DragonBox Title Screen – App Screenshot

DragonBox (and it’s enhanced app, DragonBox+) starts off as a simple title screen with a dog in a box. Once you start, you select a character and end up at a level selection screen.

The early levels show tutorials and instructions upon what to do. They’re artsy, clever, and intuitive, and most kids will be able to understand how the levels work. Ideally, to sit with a parent or older sibling that understands basic algebra would be best – having that extra bit of assistance would be useful.

The trick to DragonBox is its intuitive controls and manner of teaching the topic material.

In DragonBox, there’s 100 levels to try out (separated into five different level packs of varying difficulty), and there’s also an extra 100 levels (making that 200 levels) in DragonBox+. Unfortunately, there isn’t a section that tells you what each section is about, which is a bummer, but the level packs themselves tend to alternate between easy and more difficult problems, on about a ten level basis. I found this incredibly beneficial – in Level 1, you may learn what a zero is, then as you proceed, you might apply it with multiplication.

How on earth is it maths?

See, the clever part about DragonBox is that it encourages students to apply maths visually.

Let’s take, for example, this equation:

a\times y=b+c

If we would like to isolate y in this equation, we simply divide both sides of the equation by a. Then we obtain the solution:

y=\frac{b}{a}+\frac{c}{a}

Now, answer this: Do you honestly think any 8 year old wants to play that on an app? The answer to that is, indicatively, no.
What the designers of DragonBox have done is to mask this by using visual aids and cards as a device to practice these skills.

Now, the image below is of a level in-app.

The clever thing about DragonBox is that the maths is hidden within the app itself. – App Screenshot

Now, in this level, you can see that this level is represented by separate objects. Separate objects represent addition, whereas linked items represent multiplication. In this case, to solve the puzzle, you have to put a tomato under the linked objects (which represents division).

That is exactly the same as the equation above – but as it’s tackled in a visual aspect, no kid is going to think that they’re doing math. By hiding the maths in app, the child is learning about maths, but they aren’t being subjected to the archaic teaching styles that you see in the classroom these days. That’s not to say that the old styles don’t have their purpose – but in a modern digital environment, they aren’t nearly as useful in an adaptive, fun environment.

Pros:

  • Intuitive design, very kid friendly, fun and engaging. The music and design of the game invites the player to hatch and grow a monster for each level played in the pack – something that is pretty cool.
  • Actually confronts algebra in a roundabout way.
  • Develops critical thinking and analytical skills – critical for understanding basic algebra and higher forms of mathematics.
  • Ability to save multiple profiles – beneficial for schools or families.

Cons:

  • Lack of directional outcome for some levels – ok, so in Level 1.1 I’m told that I want to get the box by itself. Thirty levels later, an x replaces the box and I’m not told any different. A bit of division based on outcomes (i.e. multiplication, addition, subtraction, division, working with zeroes) would be a far better way of separating the levels distinctively.
  • The difference between DragonBox+ and DragonBox – Ok, so I’ve completed DragonBox, and I buy DragonBox+… only to find out all of the original levels are exactly the same as the original app. The only thing that really is + about it is that there’s a hundred extra levels – and if you’ve bought the first game, you’re paying twice as much for the same quantity of levels!
    • Advice: If you’re sure you want to get the app, get DragonBox+. It’s a little bit more at the time of purchase, but you save the frustration about having to buy another app to get the rest of the levels.

Verdict

All in all, DragonBox is a well developed, cleverly designed app that is sure to engage (and conspire) children of all ages involved with basic algebra.

Title: DragonBox
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $2.99
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox
Title: DragonBox+
Publisher: We Want To Know AS
Price: $6.49
Universal – will work on both iPhone and iPad.
DragonBox+

Also available on the Mac App Store and Android.

You can find me at Mathematical Mischief, on Facebook, or Twitter. 🙂

All the best,
Josh

Guest Post: Math Formulas reviewed by Josh

22 Jun

This is my 50th official blog post and I’m handing it over to Josh, who previously reviewed King of Math for me.  I’m really happy for him to review this App as he is much more of an expert in Mathematics than myself, and you deserve an informed opinion.  Math Formulas is an App that will be handy for High School and Tertiary students studying Mathematics, and particularly Algebra.  If you are a Mathematics teacher, student, the parent of a student, or have a friend who is a student, put them on to Josh’s blog (mentioned below.)  Josh takes questions from students, provides tips and tricks for homework help, and occasionally hosts live streamed Q & A sessions.   Take it away Josh:

The Review

Hi, it’s me again!

By me I mean Josh. From Mathematical Mischief. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, 🙂

Today, I’m here to talk about another of Oddrobo Software’s apps. Last time, I covered King of Math. Today’s review is of something a little bit more basic – the app is called Math Formulas.

Click the Link to go to the App Store!

Now, as a student, I’m constantly having to learn new materials. I remember sitting in high school on a few occasions, hoping that there was some sort of quick reference I could use to help me understand topics. Fortunately, there were some materials, or I was able to make my own. As time has passed, though, it’s become harder to find decent materials.

Now, Math Formulas is not a fix all. It will not tutor you – it does not have videos. But as a reference material, it is damn useful in finding stuff quickly. It provides over 100 different formulas for students (and teachers) to use. Continue reading

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