Bottom Line: Chip N' Dale with math. At just 99 cents, recommended to help learn and practice single digit multiplication skills.
This app is part of the Tasty Math Facts series from Operatio Apps. Here's the low-down on how the app works:
There are three modes - Quiz A, Quiz B and Race. All the modes are multiple choice - the child has to select which one of three answers is the correct one. In Race, the child has 60 seconds to answer as many multiplication questions as possible. The clock runs while they are answering the question and pauses in-between so they have a good chance at solving a lot of problems.
Quiz B is a simple question-and-answer mode: the child is asked a multiplication question and they have to select the correct answer. Quiz A is more complex: the app provides the child with an answer and they have to select numbers that, when multiplied, equal that answer. For example: ? x ? = 20. If the child enters 5 x 5 = 25 they are given partial credit but if they answer with 5 x 4 = 20 then they got both parts of the question right and accordingly receive full credit.
The child accumulates both coins and acorns for answering questions correctly. When the correct answer to a multiplication problem is selected, the number of acorns the child is awarded equals the product. For example, in the case of 5 x 4 = 20, the right answer would yield 20 acorns. In addition, incorrect answers reduce the child's acorn count. As coins are won, games are unlocked and the child uses their acorn horde as tokens in order to buy turns in the games.
In order for me to outline what I liked about this app, I thought it would be useful to compare it with another 99-cent multiplication app that I recently reviewed - Times Tables: Squeebles.
- Both games allow for multiple players' data to be saved. Four in the case of Squeebles and three for Acorns.
- Squeebles features alien creatures. Acorns has cute animals in it but, and I **cannot** stress how crucial this point is, it's not clear to me whether they are in fact squirrels or chipmunks. The developer says squirrels so I've referred to them as that in my review, but they are chipmunk colored. The closest squirrel I can find that has colors close to those in Acorns is the red squirrel but the similarity isn't sufficient in my view to dampen the controversy around this issue.
- Acorns has some great options in settings. A parent or teacher can really customize this app to meet each child's level. To make things easy for the adults there are several modes to choose from in which the settings are pre-set: Novice, Advanced Beginner, Competent, Proficient and Expert. The downside of the settings section is that it can be tough to tell what some of the settings do. Even after reading the iTunes description and checking the developer's website I was unclear on a couple. I would recommend that Operatio consider adding to the app an information section for parents and teachers that outlines what each of the settings are and how they can best be used. The settings are:
- Reset all - according to the developer this resets all the settings and acorns for the current active player. However, I noted that my acorn count hadn't changed after using it.
- There are automatic keys for both clear and multiply - you can choose to have these keys turned either on or off.
- Music on or off.
- Check and lock the correct answers. Selecting this setting will result in the app checking off used numbers in order to encourage the child to try more complex questions. If you want the child to practice all possible options then leave this setting off.
- Set the highest number to practice - from 2 to 9.
- Easy Counting. In this setting the acorns are left 'hanging' a little longer before dropping into the bin. Also, when they are tapped the app will count them out.
- Double the speed is for the more advanced users and will ask questions in a more quick-fire fashion.
- Both apps are mostly about testing and practice but Acorns does have one important teaching element in that it uses visuals effectively. Let's say the child selects the number 2: Two squirrels then pop up. If the child then selects the number 4, each squirrel throws that number of acorns up in the air. The child now has a visual representation of the answer to the question 2 x 4. In a future update I would love it if there were a way for the child to organize the acorns within the bin, preferably in blocks of 10. For the higher multiples, having so many acorns rolling around without being organized is of limited utility because they're close to impossible for the child to count.
- In both Acorns and Squeebles if a child gets an answer wrong, then they move on to the next question. Given that we all tend to learn the most from errors I would love to see apps enable children to more actively learn from their mistakes. Problems could be re-worked in a way that shows the child the correct answer and how to get to it.
- Both games track results but in Acorns, the parent or teacher can access more detailed statistical information. Neither app has the option to email results however. If Operatio does decide to add an information section to their app, it would be helpful if they would provide some detail on what each statistical button does - as in settings, it's not intuitively clear what information each option provides.
- In Acorns there is both visual and audio reinforcement for correct answers. Squeebles provides more frequent and varied rewards which I like because the quizzes in Acorns can take quite a while to complete before getting to the games. However, the games in Acorns are fun and interactive and, as mentioned in my review, something similiar would be a welcome addition to the Squeebles app
- Acorns only deals with single-digit multiplication. Squeebles includes tables up to 12 and enables the child to practice on a specific table.
In summary, Multiplying Acorns is a good app and excellent value for money. With a few updates it would be a Top Pick.
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This review was written by Deanne Shoyer who loves that reviewing apps for smartappsforkids.com as that gives her the opportunity to consider the big questions - like whether something is a squirrel or a chipmunk. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.