Saturday, June 11, 2011

Montessorium Intro to Math


*nice pace - not allowed to rush
*clear verbal instructions - for the most part
*naturally increases in difficulty
*clean and interesting graphics


*number writing is messy
*location of main menu button is awkward

I handed over my iPad to a couple of my kindergartners to see what they would do/how effectively they would use the Intro to Math app by Montessorium. I figured it would have some merits after I discovered it was created by actual educators.

At first glance, I was disappointed by the number writing practice portion. The numbers are much farther away from the HWT system we use and there is too much room for error. If the creators of this app plan to release an updated version, they should change that feature so that if a student goes off the number (even a little) they would need to start over with a cleared number to trace.

I first handed the iPad to a learner in one of our lower groups. He began with the top activity (there are five from the top of the screen to the bottom.) My student had to shake the iPad to scatter boards of varying sizes and then drag them back into order from longest to smallest. He wanted to order them the opposite way so it took a few moments to make sure he understood why it wasn't working. The app should have included verbal instructions to that end. Once he got it, he got it. It is similar to an activity we do with Cuisenaire rods except that these rods are all the same color. I could see his mind working and he was very deliberate. A great practice for reinforcing ordering/sorting skills.

This same student continued on to the second activity which he also found engrossing. This time, he had to listen for a number and then select a rod with the corresponding amount of sections. Great for number sense. The app alternates between activities for this which kept him going and intrigued.

As he moved to the third activity, he was beginning to rush. This activity asks the student to trace numbers and as I mentioned, it's the weak spot of this app. My student made a big ole mess of the handwriting part. Because he didn't have to start over, the numbers ended up with a whole lot of scratches and marks as he kept picking up where he went out of the line. However, it was worth getting through that portion to get to the number selection portion. Several sectioned rods appeared and he had to listen for a number and then select the corresponding one. It was a challenging and worthy activity - for him and for one of my higher math students who picked it up from there. This new student spent time and made some errors, yet kept going until she had completed the whole task successfully.

My student found the 4th activity to be a bit more challenging - matching numbers to rods that are mixed up. A little spatial reasoning component in the manner that the rods line up - made it more challenging for her to sort and match numbers with rods. She reported that it was hard, but fun. One additional challenge is that the button to return to the main menu is on the bottom of the screen and so her hand would brush it and kick her back to the main menu. At that point, she had to start the activity from the beginning again. (another good change for the next release of this app - move the button to the top of the screen)

She continued on to the 5th activity which was a step up from the 4th. She shook the iPad to mix up the numbers from 1-10 and then reordered them. Then she was shown a number and had to drag the equivalent amount of chips onto the middle of the screen. Another nice activity. The final part of this activity involves the voice in the app showing and naming numbers and a corresponding grouping of chips. She tells the student whether the number is odd or even (which I like) and then asks them to draw a line down the middle - showing that odd numbers will cross a chip while the even numbers can be split by the line into two even groups. The problem is that she will allow the line to be drawn anywhere on the screen. This part needs a little more strict oversight.

We'll plan to use this app in the fall - it reinforces number sense in a way that fits nicely into our current curricular plan.

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