By Elaine Cheesman, Ph.D.
There are times when we want kids to put down the iPad or tablet and to play traditional games (e.g., dominoes, board games, card games) with humans, particularly when the whole family is on vacation and it has been raining for days. Playing traditional games is beneficial on many social and academic levels and can provide real-time practice for children in both reading and math skills. Research by Ramani and Siegler (2008) suggests that playing board games strengthens proficiency in foundational math tasks—counting, estimating, subitizing (i.e., the ability to perceive at a glance the number of items presented, such as on dice), recognizing written numerals, adding and subtracting, and comparing numerical sizes.
Many children with reading difficulties also struggle with math skills. Even though they may not have been formally diagnosed with dyscalculia, a learning disability related to math calculation, these individuals may display one or more of the following characteristics:
- Use of inefficient calculation strategies
- Difficulty memorizing basic arithmetic facts
- Early difficulty with subtraction
- Lack of “number sense” (e.g., comparing the relative size of two numbers—Which is greater? 3 or 9)
- Dysfluent processing of written numbers or mathematical symbols
- Linking written or spoken numbers to the idea of quantity
- Difficulty understanding place value
- Trouble learning or understanding multi-step calculation procedures (e.g., multi-digit multiplication and long division)
This App chat reviews math websites and mobile apps that can strengthen basic math skills needed to play traditional family games as well as higher-level calculation skills. It avoids programs/apps that require extensive reading, include in-app purchases, or contain distracting images and/or audio that may disrupt the primary task.
Developer: Doodle Smith Ink
This app provides subitizing practice using a variety of representations (e.g., dominoes, dice, fingers on hands, and playing cards). Players can choose a specific representation to practice, change the amount of time the images are displayed, and select the range of numbers used. Settings are intuitive and easy to use. The goal is for players to correctly subitize in order to free captive animals. One animal is freed for every four correct responses. Incorrect responses signal display of the correct response. 2
Developer: Division of Labor
This free app provides virtual graph paper and a keyboard with numbers and math operation symbols for laying out equations and problems in all four operations with whole numbers and fractions. Intuitive settings enable contrasting rows and/or columns. After solving the problems, the user can save, print, and email completed worksheets.
Dexteria Dots—Get in Touch with Math
This is an intuitive math game that teaches the concepts of number sense, addition, subtraction, greater-than (>), and less-than (<). The user separates or combines dots to produce a value. For beginners, larger dots represent greater values, and smaller dots represent smaller values. There are three main options for gameplay, and each includes four levels. All levels have time limits. In addition, bonus dots are awarded, and most challenges have multiple solutions.
Ten Frame Fill
Developers: Mike Egan and Randy Hengst
This app is designed to improve addition and subtraction skills in the family of 10. In this app, a ten frame is shown with tokens. The player is shown an addition problem and a complementary subtraction problem and asked, “How many more are needed to make 10?” The players can drag tokens of another color or touch the number for the correct response.
Developers: Mike Egan and Randy Hengst
This app provides practice in simple math word problems requiring addition and subtraction with answers of 10 or less. The user can solve one of three types of equations. The user has the option to use virtual manipulatives to solve the problem and the option to show the number sentence.
This free website helps users automatize computation skills in the four operations for problems related to decimals and fractions. Timed activities challenge the user to respond in at least ten seconds, but optimally in three seconds or less, with immediate feedback for slow or incorrect responses. Progress-monitoring graphs show responses of ten seconds, three seconds, and areas that require more practice.
This free website calls itself an “amusement park” for math. It features kid-friendly information and engaging games using the four basic operations plus geometry art. The instructions require reading skills, and the visual layout may be distracting for some students. Tabs for both parents and teachers provide guidance, instructions, and options to select targeted activities. A related website for practicing pre-algebra and higher-level math is CoolMath (described below).
This free website is an extension of CoolMath4Kids (described above) that provides engaging games and information related to advanced math (e.g., pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, calculus), geometry art, and science. Tabs for both parents and teachers provide guidance, instructions, and options to select targeted activities.
Ramani, G. B. & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low-Income Children’s Numerical Knowledge through Playing Number Board Games. Child Development, 79(2), 375-394.
More of Dr. Cheesman’s App Chats:
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Literacy Instruction
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Spelling
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Interactive Books for Kids, Teens, Adults
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Holiday Gifts! (Word Games and Logic Puzzles)
Dr. Cheesman’s App Chat: Vocabulary and Morphology
Dr. Cheesman is an Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The courses she developed were among the first nine university programs officially recognized by the International Dyslexia Association for meeting the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.
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