Math Battle is an app for Apple mobile devices that uses the tried-and-true principle of mixing carrot and stick in order to get children to practice their maths. At its heart, Math Battle uses an interesting space battle game as a reward for a user completing a series of arithmetic drills. The publisher, Insight Industries, sent me a review copy to evaluate and since it is obviously aimed at school aged kids (roughly ages 6-12 given the types of problems available), I decided to recruit my local expert to help out: my 9-year-old son. Here’s what we thought about Math Battle.
I found the interface, set-up, and presentation of the app is very straight forward and attractive – it’s nothing fancy but that’s what makes it particularly useful for kids. In terms of settings, a user has the choice of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division along with the range of numbers used which helps fine tune the difficulty of the task. For example, a younger child might be given only simple addition problems involving adding one to a number or an older child can be asked to carry out long division (up to 99). In addition, there is an option to “show hints” which briefly shows the child the answer to any problem they got incorrect before prompting to ask them to complete it again – this last feature is a nice touch because it means that the app actually can teach a child the right answer which is useful for simple arithmetic drills (but not so much for long division obviously).
Once the type of problems are chosen, the game begins with the child be required to answer a number of math questions before they can progressing to the actual “game” phase of the app. Answers are entered simply by typing on a large numerical keypad that’s displayed on the right side of the screen. One of the coolest features is that the left side of the screen is used like an actual scratchpad that the child can write on using a finger, in order to help them work out double digit problems or carry out long division. It’s a simple but thoughtful feature which makes the app an actual teaching tool rather than simply a game.
Once the child has finished a set of problems they are then passed along to the game phase in which they must move around a 3D space, blasting asteroids, collecting crystals inside them, and fending off enemy fighters. The whole game is similar to a first-person version of Asteroids and while not exactly high-tech or terribly complex, it’s fun and challenging for most kids. Each game phase is structured as a mission, which upon completion, returns the child to another math drill. This process is repeated, with each new game phase offering a new mission. Taken as a whole it seems like a clever way of “tricking” kids into doing math.
My son liked the app right from the start – this includes the actual math drills. He was quite excited to work through the problems in order to play the game and happily kept returning to use the app whenever I gave him access to my iPad. When asked for a couple of words to describe the game he replied “It’s a lot of fun, especially blasting asteroids.” Initially he did run into some issues figuring out the exact objective of the game but after some feedback to the game’s designer, a new version was uploaded which included more extensive explanations, an online video tutorial (via YouTube), and some progress indicators within the game itself. That bodes well for future updates and refinements in my opinion.
Math Battle is well worth downloading for anyone with elementary school aged kids. While it’s hardly the most exciting game from a graphics or technology standpoint, it manages to strike an excellent balance between entertainment and educational value, offering kids a pleasant reward for honing an important cognitive skill. The best part? It’s free!
Disclosure: I received an evaluation copy of the game for purposes of review (it’s a free product though).