Sunday, April 15, 2012

Students' Favorite Math App for iPad: Math Duel

As my fifth graders and I to explore using an iPad in the classroom we continue to find great apps that are both fun and help students develop their math skills. This week I'd like to share another of my Grade 5 students' favorite iPad apps.
  Math Duel is a split screen math game for two players. This app is created by Ellie's Games, LLC and you can find it in the Education category of the App Store. There are several very nice features of this game but what students really like is the ability to play with another student on the same device.

  A very nice feature of this app is that it is customizable for practice at varying levels of ability. Each player can create their own settings so that students who may be at different levels can still play against each other, each getting problems that are just right for them. Setting selections include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Each player can choose one, two, three, or all four functions for their problems. The students can also choose the number of digits, from 2 to 7, in the equation. The app does not allow decimal so if students are select division practice they must estimate the answer to the nearest whole number. These options make this app great for students from a wide range of math abilities.

  After the settings are determined the duel begins. Each student is given a problem and the first to enter the correct answer wins the point. Students should decide the score they are player toward before the game begins as the game seems to keep going indefinitely. Students in my classroom have played as high as 50 points without the game ending. If neither player selects the correct answer the math problem stays on the screen until one of them gets the correct answer.  

  Not only do students really enjoy this game, but we have seen struggling students improve their basic computation skills after playing. This is especially true when a student plays against the teacher.
  This app does come at a cost of $0.99. The combination of fun and educational value, however,  make this app well worth it. When students are given free time with the iPad this is the activity they choose most often.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Students' Top Pick: SparkleFish

Now that we have been using the iPad in the classroom for a few months, students have had a chance to try a variety of apps designed to reinforce Language Arts skills. One that my Fifth Graders  choose most often is the SparkleFish by Whosagoodboy Partners. This app is an audio story completion game much like the writing activities known as Mad Libs. Students fill in missing story elements or parts of speech by recording their word or phrase choices. After completing the story they can listen to what ends up a silly story. 

Educationally, this app has some value as it does ask students to identify parts of speech or story elements. Parents or teachers would be able check for the child's understanding by listening to the story. Ideally, however, it would be best if the teacher, parent, or tutor were working with the child while they are creating their story. If a child has difficulty identifying the requested part of speech there is a help screen that gives some suggestions. Parts of speech requested for the story focus on basic skills such as identifying verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs as well as word tense and plurals.
SparkleFish Originals stories are free. There are four choices in this original package, Infomercial, The Cold Remedy, Yearbook Signing, and A Fairy Tale. You can purchase other packages for more stories at a cost of $0.99. Additional story packages come with five new story choices. Additional packages include Tall Tales, A Day in the Life, Relationships, and A Dream World. This app is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

SparkleFish  is a fun app for kids of all ages. My students find it motivating and helps them express their creativity. The short stories created can be used as a starter to a creative writing exercise or assessment. This app could also be helpful with students who have disabilities or difficulty with writing skills. Teachers, parents, and tutors can assess their understanding of parts of speech as they work together creating original stories.

There are a lot of great educational apps available for iPad and iPod making it difficult sometimes to weed through them to find those that can be useful in the classroom. SparkleFish is one of those apps that has a balance between being having an educational value and motivational and enjoyable to students. I believe this is a great combination. My students give this app five stars.

Check back, my 5th Graders have more favorites that I will share in the weeks to come.

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