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Sago Mini Puppy Preschool
I am a huge fan of Sago Mini’s play-based app collection, so when I heard that they were putting out this app with “light educational content” I was skeptical. So skeptical that I actually refused to purchase it or look at it for months. Silly me. I should have trusted that if Sago Mini was going to do “educational” content, they wouldn’t get didactic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this app is just as entertaining and pleasurable to play with as the rest of the apps they make. The app store description says that it includes “numbers, shape recognition, matching and music fun” but… they don’t mention that the shapes are not just your average square/circle/triangle set, but are instead the shapes of different objects that puppies like to chew on (like socks, shoes, bones and remote controls!) and you toss the objects to the puppies who then chew them to bits or shake them back and forth in a playful manner. They don’t mention that the “matching” is part of a game involving feeding the dogs different colored foods and that sometimes special guests show up alongside the puppies (I will admit to laughing aloud at a few of the guest antics!). They neglect to mention that the “music fun” is in the guise of a dog piano where each key is paired up with a different dog who barks (or howls if you press and hold the key) each pitch. The activity that is the most overtly “educational” is probably the numbers activity in which you pile up to ten dogs into a wading pool for a big bubble bath. This section of the app includes the first linguistic voiceover I remember ever seeing in a Sago Mini app as a child’s voice speaks aloud the number of dogs as you place them into the pool. My favorite part about this is that you can remove multiple puppies at a time if you use multiple fingers, so if you want to count down by twos or threes instead of one at a time, you can do that! As with all Sago Mini apps, there are some subtle little details that add to the quality of the app without distracting (try bouncing the objects in the matching & shape games and listen to the changing pitches!) and there’s plenty of kid-friendly humor throughout to keep kids engaged. Plus, those puppies are all so CUTE!
Busy Shapes 2
Reviewed on 02/06/17
Paid on | iOS
This sequel to Busy Shapes adds a new dimension to the play. In the first highly rated app, players match shapes to the hole that most closely matches the shape (sometimes just by shape, sometimes also by color, texture or pattern). In this sequel, the holes are often found on different, moving planes than the shapes and players must not only match the shape to the hole, but find a way to get the shape safely past the obstacles and across the moving platforms without falling off. Thankfully, there is still no stress-inducing path to “failure” at this game since a new copy of the shape will reappear in the initial position if your shape falls off the edge of one of the platforms. Part of some of the puzzles involves exploding “bombs” (classic black sphere with a wick), so if those are too violent for your child, avoid this game. There are also catapults, icy spots, rivers and barriers to add to the challenge of moving your shape towards its corresponding hole. Great practice for understanding timing and depth as well as shapes and cause and effect.
Add this app to your bedtime story routine for an easy way to let kids know that math is part of everyday life. Every day (I mean, night) features a new topic with three related math challenges at different skill levels (wee ones, little kids, big kids). There's also a really tricky challenge question under a cloud labelled "The Sky's the Limit" if all of the other questions feel too easy. The app does NOT include a "read-to-me" option which gives great incentive for parents and children to use this app together. Parents read the introductory information to learn about a new topic, then kids can choose which level of question they'd like to answer. The questions are never simple flashcards, but instead do a nice job of working a math question into a story-like scenario. Click on the "Get the Answer" star to see the answer when you think you know what it is. If you don't like the math challenge of the day, feel free to search for a different one--they are searchable by subject. Answering the questions doesn't take a lot of time, but if done daily, it builds those math skills and is a healthy habit to get into! Note: the app now includes both English AND Spanish language options!
Attributes by Math Doodles
Reviewed on 07/22/16
Paid on | iOS
A hand-drawn app about math skills with surprisingly few numerals. Daren Carstens of Carstens Studios wanted to show kids how genuinely fun and engaging math could be and so he designed this app. Users choose one of seven different puzzles, whether to play in a timed mode or not, they can choose the types of images or let the selection be random AND (and this is surprisingly rare in kids’ logic-related puzzle apps) they get to choose the level of difficulty they’d like to start at. Almost every other puzzle-type app on the market slowly builds the user’s skills by introducing new elements as the user progresses through the levels. This is excellent in theory, but in practice it can mean that if you’re feeling confident about your abilities and you want to jump ahead to the more challenging levels, there’s no way to do that without putting in the hours to play through the easier levels to “unlock” the more difficult ones. This self-determination of leveling is a feature that really sets this app above the rest because even if users try a level that’s too challenging, that just motivates them to back a little bit and see what they’ll need to learn to be able to solve the “too difficult” puzzle! The seven different puzzles themselves range in difficulty from relatively simple (pattern circles) to tricky to get the hang of (Category Stack was a bit challenging for me!). Some of the drawings are easier to differentiate than others (buttons of different shapes, colors and patterns are easy, complicated robots are a little harder), but since you can always opt to choose which drawings are used, you can always opt out of any that are frustrating to you. All-in-all, this is a beautiful app with very thoughtful design features and if you’re looking for an attractive way to get kids some math skills practice, this is an excellent choice.
Reviewed on 05/18/16
Paid on | iOS
Kids (and adults) will love to play “store” with this app! There are two modes -- the first mode is virtual shopping in which you fill your cart with the items you want off the shelves, then unload the items onto a conveyor belt at the checkout lane where the items are scanned and the prices rung up. Then, pay them from your virtual wallet. The second mode allows you to actually print paper versions of all of the products available in the virtual store. Each of these paper items also includes a QR code that you can scan (on the screen which has become only a cash register and scanner) and then the receipt prints. Then, pay with paper money (also printed from the app) and the cash register will tell the cashier if any change is required. The sound effects are so satisfyingly realistic! You could also choose to tape the QR codes onto any play food (plastic, wooden, felt, etc.) that you may already own and in that way create yet a third way to play “store.” There are so many possibilities and some excellent math literacy opportunities woven into this fun-to-play app!
Mystery Math Town
Reviewed on 03/23/16
Paid on | iOS
Fireflies have been scattered throughout Mystery Math Town. You help a chipper little floating ghost search through funky abandoned houses in town to gather them back up. To get through doorways and passages you must build equations to solve math problems. As you play you will discover hanging portraits that speak to you and offer bits of background information about what is actually happening in this town. Once you find all of the fireflies, you gain bonus play in which you can find coins so you can collect the portraits in your own gallery. Unlimited user accounts means that you can set up different games for different children and customize the level of math for each player. This game is scalable through a child’s elementary education as you can begin with addition 1-10 and slowly add levels all the way through division by 10s making it a good investment. (guest post written by Jane Kelly)
Developing a deep understanding of the connection between numerals and quantity is an important foundation for all mathematical work. Fiete Math breaks this skill down into very manageable steps and adds a dash of humor to make it more engaging for kids. On an ocean dock, users will find a collection of blocks. If they are single blocks, they are marked with the number 1. If there are two attached blocks, those are marked with a 2 and so on. A boat pulls up to the dock and (with a numeral in the sky above the boat) asks for a certain number of blocks. Players must stick that many blocks together (or slice off enough blocks from a larger group to make the smaller number requested) before they can load the blocks onto the boat. As players progress through the levels, they are sometimes rewarded with new block shapes, still based on a squarish shape, but designed to look like different animals instead of just a square. Keep an eye out for some silly visitors to the dock who are carrying some crazy cargo as they walk by your loading zone!
Reviewed on 09/04/15
Paid on | iOS
Inspired by matryoshka dolls, this beautifully modern app invites users to nest various shapes together with its calming, peaceful interface. Although the shapes start off fairly simple (small hexagons nest within larger hexagons), they increase in complexity as you move through the different levels. Eventually, users must also learn to rotate and resize objects in order to nest them properly. The fully nested shapes are beautiful and mesmerizing as they drift towards the center of the screen and gently morph as the outlines slowly spin, often creating interesting optical illusions. A great way to learn spacial perception, talk about shapes and colors and just relax!
Reviewed on 06/22/15
Paid on | iOS
With funky modern illustrations, TinyBop invites kids to play with the six classic simple machines (lever, screws, wheels and axles, inclined planes, wedges, and pulley) and make adjustments (like moving the fulcrum on the lever) to see how the action changes. Each machine has its own unique scenario (knocking down a castle, breaking up icebergs, lifting heavy objects) and the option to "peel back" the top layer of the animation to get a closer look at what's going on with each adjustment made (lines trace trajectories, arrows illustrate the amount of force needed, etc.). No time limits, no right or wrong answers, just a chance to experiment and play in this well-designed app.
Reviewed on 06/20/15
Paid on | iOS
Being able to identify “same vs. different” is an essential building block for science and math skills, but it’s also an important early literacy skill (otherwise, how could you ever decipher the difference between the letters p, d, q & b?). In this app, the object of the game is simple -- choose the one object that is different from the rest of the set -- but gameplay as you progress through the 99 (!) levels can be surprisingly challenging. If you want to increase the difficulty further you can choose either the timed version or switch from the easy “no tears” mode to the “tissue mode” where it’s 3 strikes and you’re out. The real charm of this game lies in the illustrations. Discovering what pictures the next level will bring is half the fun. Will it be a donkey in yellow rain boots? Or a chicken in a top hat? Or just a giant sausage? Players must work their way through the levels, unlocking the images as they go, so each new level is a surprise. Fiete, the hero of this series of apps, shows up at the end of each level with responses appropriate to the number of mistakes you made (or didn’t make) during each round, incorporating a small emotional education component into the app.