Bottom Line: Well done, but the math is above the standard second-grade curriculum and the app needs more polish and customization. Might provide enjoyable math facts practice for older kids.
In Arithmetic Invaders Grade 2, players defend the universe against alien invaders, a la Space Invaders, while improving their mental math in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is reasonably priced at $1.99, and there is also a free Arithmetic Express K-2 version to try (linked to below.)
The app opens to a title screen with space graphics and levels titled in planetary order, but it's far too cluttered for an opening screen for the app's target age. It includes basic information about the planet to save and the math skills used. For example, to save Mercury the player must work with adding one and two digit numbers.
There are two levels for each mathematical operation which must be unlocked in order. Once a planet is saved, it can be revisited at any point to try for a higher score. The length of each game can be set for two, three, or four minutes in the info screen, accessed on the top right corner. No other customization is possible. The info screen also provides information about the teaching methodology and mechanics of the game along with links to related apps and a contact link.
Each mission starts with basic instructions on how to play then moves to the game screen. The actual game play is simple and easy to learn—a math sum appears on the laser gun at the bottom and is moved with left/right arrows to the correct problem on one of the four descending alien ships. After lining up the laser gun to the matching equation, a red button is pushed to fire. So, when the player's laser has 44 on it, they need to find 38+6 on the one of the descending saucers and blast away.
If correct, the alien ship is eliminated, and another sum appears. If incorrect, the alien ships reset to the top and another laser gun appears. If three incorrect answers are given, the level must be restarted.
When the game time is complete (there’s a visual timer in the upper right corner) with two or fewer mistakes and without any ships touching down on the planet, the mission is completed and a screen appears telling the total score and providing interesting facts about the planet in each level for a bonus astronomy lesson. In addition, completing each level earns a pilot’s insignia badge and title with the ultimate goal to be Defender of the Universe.
I was excited to download and try this app. I have a second-grade son who is on grade level in math, and I knew he’d enjoy a game to improve his speed. He eagerly tried it, but unfortunately gave up very quickly. The first level is addition of 2-digit and 1-digit numbers, many requiring regrouping. Without pencil, paper, and column presentation, and with the time pressure in the game, he was easily overwhelmed. He can do the addition and subtraction problems, but not in his head, and the game wasn’t motivating enough for him to keep trying through several failures.
I consulted several different U.S. state standards for mathematics, along with the common core standards, and found that readiness for multiplication and division are taught in second grade, but actual computation is generally not taught until third or fourth grade. That means most second graders will not be ready for the upper levels of this app, and practice on facts is useless if they don’t understand the concept.
Displaying the app to some teachers in my school, the fourth grade teachers found it most appropriate, and all the teachers said they would prefer the ability to slow down or pause the game to allow more time for computation. None of the teachers thought it would be appropriate for those who already need extra help in math, because of the speed of the game.
Better customization would make this app more useful to a wider range of ages and abilities. The ability to slow down the ships or stop them entirely would allow students not yet proficient in these math concepts to practice without the speed pressure. Also useful would be column presentation for addition and subtraction. Retitling the app as second to fourth grade would allow for more level-appropriate use, and adding more levels for each operation instead of the current eight levels total (two per operation) would provide more leveled practice.
Finally, I always appreciate the ability to turn off music in an app. The music in this app is fine, but sometimes you just need a break.
This free trial is definitely worth looking at for those at the appropriate level, but most younger students will not be able to complete all levels.
If you would like to purchase Arithmetic Invaders Grade 2 please support Smart Apps for Kids by using the links provided. The cost is the same but Smart Apps gets a small percentage. Thanks for your support!
This review was completed by Heather Hetler, who works as an elementary school SLP and is a full-time graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology. @Reks: Educational Apps, the developer of Arithmetic Invaders, Grade 2 Math Facts, is an advertiser at smartappsforkids.com