Bottom line: Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with some great multiplication table practice thrown in. Well-drawn graphics and a deep back story make math fun for ages 8-11.
If you scurvy dogs would like to download Math Mathews and the Search for the Necklace of Sylla ($2.99, iPad only), please use this treasure button. Don't arrrrrrgue.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t like math. I really must speak to my bosses at SAFK about why they keep making me review math apps. But if you disguise multiplication with enough pirate adventure and treasure hunting, I find I can actually enjoy it. Math Mathews, an app from French developer Kiupe, offers just enough distraction, making math both fun and challenging for kids ages 8-11 who are mastering multiplication tables.
Math Mathews is a pirate-turned-octopus (think Pirates of the Caribbean’s Davy Jones) who’s looking for a treasure that will break his curse. The user helps him out by solving math problems that bring him ever closer to finding the pieces of the necklace he needs to regain his human form.
How do I know all this about my new friend Math Mathews, you ask? Well, I read his ship’s log, which told me how he became an octopus, how he acquired his current crew, and how he made an enemy of Buck, his arch nemesis. Most of the information found there may not be absolutely necessary to the app, but it sure makes it more fun. A math app is one thing; a math app that introduces the user to actual characters and their motivations is far better.
The app includes a practice session, which this rusty old multiplier needed before embarking on her pirate journey. After 37 practice questions (no, really), I was ready.
The game has three parts, which correspond to the three parts of the necklace that must be found. Part 1 is just straightforward multiplication problems with multiple choice answers. For every answer your little mathematician gets right, Math Mathews and crew are able to steer around floating boxes in the river and escape a hungry octopus (don’t ask me about the ethical implications of an octopus trying to eat Math Mathews in his octopus form).
Part 2 is . . . are you ready for this? ALGEBRA. Questions are things like 9 x ? = 63, and the user has to fill in the number that will make the equation correct. Again, questions are multiple choice, 1-9, and the consequence for getting a wrong answer has something to do with a box of dynamite getting dropped on Math’s flying ship, the Hummingbird. This time the person/animal in hot pursuit is Buck, who shakes his angry fist a lot, but can’t catch up with the Hummingbird as long as your little math pirate keeps getting the answers right.
Part 3 is an actual multiplication table, with sliding selectors on the bottom and left. The user has to slide the selectors to the right numbers to equal the answer given. This is where kids begin to understand that there’s more than one way to come up with an answer of 12, or 24, or whatever. It’s a great visual lesson in what teachers actually mean when they talk about the multiplication TABLE.
Once the user gets through all three areas with no errors, the necklace pieces are found and stashed in the treasure room, and the rest of Math Mathews’ pirate story is unlocked in the ship’s log. In addition, more treasures become available the more answers the user gets right. From the looks of the empty treasure room, this game could keep a kid busy for years.
The app has no advertisements, no in-app purchases, and no links to social media, which this mom REALLY appreciates. There’s also room for seven player profiles, and a log to keep track of how each user is progressing. Kiupe has done a great job of creating an app that kids will love, and that parents and teachers will find useful as well.
Minor suggestions for improvement: each section of each game is REALLY long, meaning it takes a kid a long time to see a reward for all his/her hard work. And if you fail a level, the thought of having to go back and start it over again is pretty intimidating, just because of length alone. Second, the back story, though written engagingly enough, needs some grammatical help. The word “damn” also makes an appearance, which could be a deal breaker for some parents.
My daughter is too young for this app, and she is MOST disappointed about it. The interface is enticing enough that she can’t wait until she’s ready to take on multiplication just so she can play this game.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have math to do and treasure to find.
Emilie Davis is a sucker for a good pirate story. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.