Bottom line: Math Summoner combines the hand-eye coordination needed to play in an 80s arcade, a bit of wizardly imagery, and a lot of practice of basic geometry, fractions and the “Big Four” of mathematical operations. Try the lite version for Free.
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Math Summoner is latest smashup of gaming and math from Jiayi Chong, maker of Math Pets Plus and Math Guardians. In this game, the player is flung between a frantic attempt to shoot aliens before they attack, the creation of hummingbirds that are necessary to advance the game, and the practice of specific classes of mathematical problems. The object of the game is to perform enough arithmetic and geometry to advance to further levels that then create more difficult problems to solve.
My five-year-old enjoyed trying the arithmetic portions, specifically addition, but announced after a few attempts that “this is boring.” The gaming skill required and the majority of the math knowledge to effectively gain points clearly appear designed to be for those beyond his basic level.
Handing this game to my 9-year-old was provocative. He was immediately interested in the fact that this game had stages, like his many Mario Bros. games. After working some basic addition problems, he was presented with some simple Geometry based on the rotation and reflection of triangles. It provided me with the chance to discuss these concepts with him for the first time, which pleased me immensely. “He'll raise his hand on the first day that it's taught in his school,” I thought to myself, “and I'll look like a good parent to all of the staff.” Sometimes I hate myself.
Other memorable moments followed. When the aliens first attacked, and I showed him that he had to attack them with lightning strikes, he offered, “Oh, violence! That's good.” He later said, “This is actually kind of fun...I can't believe I'm saying it.” I would also add that I accidentally had the sound turned off on my iPad, and when I figured that out, the game came alive. The music has kind of an Eastern, mellow, techno vibe, and the sound effects are complementary and not overpowering. I also found the language used by the developers to be crisp, well punctuated, and vivid. I hate telling my kid that he needs to write well only to be shown examples of technology that use either sloppy writing or text produced by someone clearly translating from another language.
The graphics have an iridescent quality about them that fits the supernatural setting. There is also game center connectivity for Challenge mode. Both music and sound effects are adjustable via sliding bars in the settings panel. There’s a tutorial in the guise of Wizard Training School with written and visual instructions.
Data is collected from each session which is a nice bonus for a math game. It can be reviewed in several formats and its availability, along with the developer's listing of common core standards addressed, might justify use of this app during school hours. Data can be individually tracked for up to five separate player profiles and shared. This feature means children of varying ages and abilities can advance at their own pace and parents or teachers can monitor progress.
I have several criticisms, which I hope the developer can use. I would fervently ask that an “exit” button be created for the initial stage. I accidentally entered the “training” stage over and over again and could not get out of it without completing it. That drove me mad. Jill had the same thing happen so the setup clearly isn’t the most intuitive.
The geometrical operations are so simple early in the game that due to repetition the player can get the answer right a lot of the time without actually knowing what the operation is teaching. My son also noticed this, saying, “Oh, well if it never asks a different type of question, I know what the right answer is right away.” I appreciate that the designers were trying to isolate one skill set, but with so much repetition, our brains quickly stopped thinking and simply went to auto-pilot. Consider adding a bit of variety early on or shortening the sequences significantly. The game also has different roles that can be played, from Apprentice to Wizard, and that helps, as roles like Wizard create more variety of task. Each level, however, is still too long to get through for my taste.
The issue of repetition comes up in the other major component of the game, which tests arithmetic skill. If you think that your child needs a gazillion repetitions of math operations, this game is for you. My elder son, however, went quickly to “When's this level going to be over?” In some ways the game is frenetic because one has to switch between different tools to keep characters alive and productive, but in other ways it's like working in a factory on a double shift, as one does the same task ad nauseum. It's as if the developers tried to compensate for the amount of practice they felt was necessary by mixing in zany aliens and the adrenaline rush of being attacked on a variety of fronts. I appreciate that, but simply want the stages to be shorter and with a bit more variety early on. Overall though, I'd say give this app a look.
This review marks the debut of new SAFKer Greg Sanchez. He's a father of two, teacher and fluent in Spanish. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.