Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Math Drills

Instant Interactive | 4 1/2 Stars | Math
The good: Clever visual aids, rich graphics, big buttons, solve problems using number lines, wooden blocks, facts, and hints.
The bad: Full version only allows work with up to 10 students.
The bottom line: The best math drills app I've ever used. Straight forward, customizable, easy to configure, conveniently placed visual aids. The "lite" version is packed with features, and free.
Price: $1.99
Reviewed on an: iPhone 3G
Version reviewed: 2.0
This Week In Ed Tech’s Review
As the name implies, Math Drills does precisely what it says: namely, helps students learn their basic math facts. The "lite" version is so full-featured, you may not feel compelled to purchase the paid version.

At Coronita Elementary School in Corona, CA, students who have not yet mastered their basic facts, receive a lunch-recess intervention we lovingly refer to as "Math Lab." In the math lab, students work with tutors on a variety of basic math-related activities, such as math hopscotch, flash cards, and math chants. One app I come back to in my own class, time and time again, is Math Drills. I wouldn't say the iPod touch offers the only way to learn basic math facts, but it's definitely another way for students to interact with their basic math facts, and sometimes, it's exactly what some students need.

When you first launch the program, the welcome screen gives users the option to review or practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts - or a mixture of all of them. There are two key differences between review and practice modes. The practice mode is timed, while the review mode offers onscreen tips that are unique to each math problem. These "hints" are tiny animations, such as a number line that offers text clues and visual cues; counting cubes; and a number chart. There is even a 9-times "hand" icon that teaches students the "nines" finger multiplication trick. Each animation is triggered in increments of time and repeats until the student makes their selection. With a swipe of the finger, users can navigate back and forth from among these cleverly implemented visual aids.

Math Drills offers a generous settings menu. For example, the input method can be set for keypad or multiple choice. It's also possible to select how the number sentences are displayed: either vertically, horizontally, or a combination of both. For students who have mastered their math facts, a great enrichment activity is to set the questions from "numbers" to "operators" (found in the Answers setting). Here, instead of number fact questions, users are given the numbers, and they have to choose the appropriate operator. Practice mode offers a 10-question timed quiz.
Three compelling reasons to consider upgrading to the paid version are: 1) if you can't stand looking at the chalkboard theme; 2) if you need to work with multiple students with a limited number of iPods; or 3) you want to offer your students feedback on how long they tend to take with certain problems. Features found in the paid version are:
- Work with up to 10 students.
- Ability to take tests and earn high scores and awards.
- Select from up to 12 different themes (Drills Lite users only the Chalkboard theme)
- Set the number of problems for reviews, practices and tests.
- Smart Drills, which places emphasis on problems answered incorrectly and/or slowly.
- Visually track student progress with accuracy and speed graphs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Textbook Publishers Push for iPads

According to a February, 2010 post by vatornews, an Online news source for emerging tech, major textbook publishers have turned to ScrollMotion Inc. to bring their textbooks to Apple's iPad. Which publishers? How about heavy weights like Houghon Mifflin, Kaplan, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson? Features included in the proposed app will include the ability for students to color-categorize while highlighting words on the page. In addition, students will be able to write text notes or record audio notes directly onto the device. They'll even be able to search the text for a key phrase! How many times did you wish you could do that when you were in school?
Is this how easy it's going to be to get e-textbooks in the hands of students? I thought there'd be shady deals in smokey back rooms between Steve Jobs, state politicians, school district head mucky mucks, and gray-haired publishers resisting new ways, much the same way music publishers resisted the paradigm shift from phycial CDs to Online distribution. But instead, it looks like it's the publishers are the ones doing the pushing. It could actually come down to a single app; granted, a single expensive app.
How much will it cost? Will school districts be able to give special promo codes to students who own iPads so they can download textbooks straight to their devices? Won't school districts save a ton of money purchasing a device like this instead of physical textbooks? Many schools in our district purchase two copies of each textbook for each student: one for the classroom, and one to stay at home. It'll be interesting to see the textbook landscape this time next year. What do you think?