This post is in collaboration with Matific.
The Summer Holidays are almost over. I’ve got a pile of uniform to label, PE kit to organise and my own lesson plans to sort. At the beginning of the Summer, I set Ben a few challenges: to learn to make his own bed, to complete a few chores every day, to learn to swim, and to read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. He added his own challenge to the list: to become a maths superstar.
In the Summer holidays, it’s easy for good intentions to go out of the window. However, I’d booked Ben in for a couple of intensive swim courses, and he’s now swimming without any floats or armbands. He grumbles and moans, but his bed gets made. We’ve read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and have moved on to Prince Caspian. But the maths? Well, the workbook I dug out just wasn’t quite cutting it. If I’m honest, it wasn’t engaging or challenging enough – and it only focused on addition and subtraction.
A Maths App with loads of variety
Like most 6 year old boys, Ben loves playing on a tablet or my phone. We downloaded the Matific Galaxy app for First Graders, having decided that Ben was probably best suited to Grade 1. He’s just finished Year 1, and I knew he’d been learning about 2D shapes, addition, subtraction, basic fractions and measurement.
The game’s levels are planets, each with a resident alien: Dusty, Rocky, Ice, Jung Jung, Nickel and so on. Each planet has a number of games, and each game has a specific maths skill. For example, on Nickel planet, there are 9 games. There are 2 which practise addition, 2 for numbers, 2 for data analysis, one for geometry, one for counting and one for mixed operations.
The variety of the games is impressive, as are the graphics and the funny sequences. In one comparison game, Ben had to decide in each image if there were more bees or more flowers. Once he had completed the activity (5 images), a bee from the final image flew off to startle a bear, which ran away.
In a subtraction game, Ben had to count the cherries on a plate, and then decide if a monster was allowed to eat the cherries. Once the monster had eaten the cherries, Ben had to count the remaining cherries and work out how many the monster had eaten. Not only is this one of the maths skills that his teacher specifically suggested that he practise, but he found it hilarious if he refused to let the monster eat the cherries as the monster cried.
A progressive spiral of learning
Matific describe the learning system as a progressive spiral. I can certainly see that – the skills are repeated and developed in a range of different activities. In one number activity, you have to place the numbers along a line. In a later number activity, you have to work out the correct combinations of numbers which will then allow you to bounce a ball into the net. The number line is still there, but you use it in a much more challenging way.
The 2D shapes games were really challenging. The game asks you to ‘cut’ a shape into another combination of shapes. For example, cut a hexagon into 2 triangles and 1 rectangle. You have to drag the scissors across the original shape. In a classroom, this is the kind of activity that drives me crazy – it takes ages, yet the learning is small in relation to the time spent on it. Using the app was brilliant – Ben has really consolidated this, and corrected my own understanding of a trapezoid.
After each game, the player gets to earn a prize – an item of clothing for the resident alien of the planet you are currently visiting. I actually didn’t feel that this is necessary, and found it a bit distracting, but Ben enjoyed it.
How do you know how well you’ve done?
You get ‘graded’ on each game according to how well you have done – this is out of 5 stars on the planet screen (a star for each one you get right). You have 3 tries for each question before the app shows you the correct answer. Even if you don’t get any correct, you still can unlock the next game in the sequence. I actually think this is pretty helpful – you don’t get any stars, so you can see which games you need to practise, but you’re not held back if you haven’t secured that specific skill. So Ben is not 100% on telling the time yet, but that doesn’t hold him back on his numbers, for example. This is really helpful for parents as well.
What else do I need to know?
In the App Store, the App is labelled as ‘In-app purchases,’ because you start off with the free version, have a quick go and then download the full version. You only need to pay the amount once (for the Grade 1 it was £5.99) and you can access everything in that grade. So avoid your child getting frustrated by downloading the full version straight away – it’s definitely worth it.
I really wanted to see an overview for parents for each skill. Matific have actually created a way to do this, but you have to access the desktop version. This is more expensive – £15 for a year for one stage, or £30 for all stages (K-6, which is roughly equivalent to the progress through Primary School). You can add additional children for 25% off.
The Parentzone is excellent. You can see exactly which skills your child is strong in, what they need to develop – and it suggests a specific practice game for them to use to improve that skill. So in the screen shot below, Ben needs to work on his Patterns. The App then suggests an additional game for him to practice his patterns.
This is absolutely invaluable if you really want to help your child improve their skills. Many children will practise the skills they are good at, but will avoid those they find more difficult. Without a subject specialism, it’s tricky to identify what they are struggling with. The Parentzone does all of this for you.
The only disadvantage to the Parentzone is that it doesn’t interact with the App – the desktop version and the app are separate. It’s a shame as the Parentzone is so good, and is definitely worth the extra cost.
Who would benefit from an app like this?
Overall, this app has been absolutely brilliant for Ben to consolidate his maths skills. He’s played it for several hours this week (having a review to do has given him an excuse for extra screen time) and he’s still got four more planets to complete. I’ll be investing in the desktop version for Year 2 as the Parentzone is so good.
It’s the kind of app that all children can get a lot out of. It would be brilliant for children who are struggling with maths – because the game elements and the humour make it fun. The variety of games works really well because the skills are practised yet the children don’t get bored.
It would be great for extending children who are working well in Maths – each game unlocks as the previous one is completed so there’s a natural progression. Matific Galaxy games go up to 6th Grade, so it would work for all Primary-aged children, and beyond.
This kind of app is definitely worth investing in, and it’s the kind of thing that works really well in the school holidays especially – because it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like fun. The more we can make learning feel fun, the better.
Matific Galaxy Apps are available in the App Store and on Google Play. For more information, please go to Matific Galaxy.