Bottom line: A fun, addicting game for students of all ages who need to improve speed and accuracy of math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Free Lite version.
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Mathtopia+ is a new app by Omega Labs and Top Shelf Learning, designed to practice math facts fluency. For those not immersed in teaching terminology, this means improving the speed and accuracy of basic math facts, like 2+7=9, and 8x6=48. It's important to be able to do these quickly in order to be able to solve math word problems and be prepared for higher level math.
In the days before the iPad, addition flash cards and multiplication times table charts were used to help kids memorize. There are plenty of apps that have tried to mimic the flash card format, and some even with built-in games. But Mathtopia+ provides a creative way to increase speed and accuracy with a Bejeweled-style game.
The app is easy enough to use, with a tutorial provided to help understand game play. The app includes four games with at least 25 levels each, for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Each game starts slowly, with just two different facts to solve. The user simply taps a problem in the grid (such as 0+1), then taps the answer along the side (clearly, 1). As the problems are solved, the user must also match three or more color tiles in a row in order to clear the board and gain new problems to solve.
Each level progressively adds more math facts, until level 25 when there are 49 facts to solve with seven different possible answers. The goal is to solve problems in less than 10 seconds each. If the average time to solve is more than 10 seconds per problem, the game ends without leveling up. Otherwise, the user earns one, two, or three stars based on average time, and advances to the next level. Completing a level requires that each answer be used from 7 to 12 times (depending on the level) and enough tile matches made to fill in the green bar at the top.
To improve speed, the user can also first select the answer and then tap all of the expressions on the board that correspond to that answer. This improves overall speed. The user might select the answer "40", then tap all expressions that equal 40 (8x5, 5x8, 4x10, 10x4).
One of my favorite features of this game is that although the math facts are timed, that time is not listed on the side during the game. Rather, there is a pie chart timer, with colored zones indicating the speed needed to earn stars. This allows for students to solve quickly without becoming anxious over the time remaining. The timer can be hidden, too, within the settings tab of the home screen.
Mathtopia+ takes a good approach to encourage accuracy, too—an incorrect answer locks that tile. It can't be moved or dropped down, though the user can move other tiles in line with it. This encourages students to slow down when necessary to improve accuracy.
There are also two special tiles, used if the board seems "stuck". Sometimes all problems are solved, and a three-color match doesn't seem obvious. Unlike Bejeweled, the user can move multiple tiles at a time to make a group of three. The special tiles can also be used, if they have been collected, by shuffling the whole board or using a "hammer" on one tile.
Up to six users can have a profile at one time. Obviously this is not enough for a full class, so a teacher may have to group students for profiles and have them compete together for best times. The profiles are easy to create and delete. There is also a mute option, accessible in the settings as well as on the left side of every game screen.
My only area for improvement is that not all expressions are used. In the addition section, the only expression used for the answer "1" is 0+1 (or 1+0), even in the higher levels. The same is true for 0 and 1 in multiplication, subtraction, and division. Sure, it's not complicated to know that 10-10 is zero or that zero times any number is zero, but it's surprisingly complex for some students. It also would add a little more challenge by adding to the visual scanning necessary to quickly complete a level.
Still, Mathtopia+ wins an award in my house—the first app I've reviewed that has been so addicting to me I couldn't stop playing long enough to write the review. It's also being played by all three of my children, in 6th grade, 3rd grade, and kindergarten, and I've even heard them fighting over the iPad for more Mathtopia+ time. I can guarantee no one in my house has ever fought over more time with flash cards.
Mathtopia+ also has a free version with addition facts through 8. Everything else can be purchased as an in-app purchase, but the full version is really the best deal. At the current price of $3.99, it's a real bargain, too—cheaper than a preprinted deck of flash cards for just one operation.
Mathtopia+ comes highly recommended for any parent or teacher with students who need more math facts practice. It's even useful for me as a speech-language pathologist. The students enjoy playing it as a quick reward after a therapy session—they get math practice and a game, all in one.
Heather Hetler is suddenly able to add without using her fingers, and can solve 49 multiplication problems in 1 minute, 39 seconds. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.