Bottom Line: This app takes addition and subtraction practice far beyond just flashcards. The games are fun and great for problem-solving in math for first and second graders (suggested ages: 7-9 years old). The multiplayer games are a real strength, challenging and fun for even my husband and me (yes, we play math games for fun). FREE to try, in-app purchase of $2.99 for full access.
To see if you can beat your spouse in 10 & 100 (and even let your kids play math games!), please support Smart Apps For Kids and use our download button (iPad only, FREE with $2.99 in-app purchase for full content):
What's FREE: Both multiplayer games and two levels of the remaining games.
What's not free: Full content on the four single-player games.
playMath addition subtraction by developer Jeon Jinho has quickly moved to my coveted position of “favorite math app for young elementary kids,” with creative games that are actually fun to play. I even stopped what I was doing to find my husband and play a few rounds of the multiplayer games with him.
The app consists of six different activities, all of which make interacting and experimenting with numbers fun. There are four single-player games and two multiplayer games. Unfortunately there are no user profiles available to customize progress, but previous levels can be played at any time.
The multiplayer games are a highlight of this app. In the first, 10 & 100, users take turns combining the number cubes on the playing board to form multiples of 10. The cubes are numbered 1 through 25, and can be combined only with cubes of like color. For example, one player could combine 13 + 5 +2=20, and 17 + 12 + 1 to make 30. The 20 cube and 30 cube can then be combined, continuing until a combination of 100 is reached. The only downfall was the very fast time per turn, with just 20 seconds before the board switches to the other player.
The second multiplayer game involves three dice and number keys. The goal is to be the first player to turn all the number keys black (instead of white), by both matching the number to the number on the die, and by adding dice together. The user can turn tiles 2, 4, and 5 if rolled, or could choose to turn just 11, or 9 + 2, or any other number of combinations. Numbers can be selected as many times as desired in one turn.
Both of these multiplayer games are available in full in the free version, which is a great feature of this app. The other four games allow the user to try for two levels before a screen pops up to require an in-app purchase (of $2.99) in order to continue play. The pop-up does have a parental lock, but it’s still possible for kids to access (especially those who might know what 7 x 5 is, for instance), so parents should be sure to turn off in-app purchases or use airplane mode when kids play this app independently.
Each game has a visual tutorial to help explain what to do. It does still involve quite a bit of reading with no audio, so parents and teachers of first graders will probably prefer to watch the tutorial then explain to the kids. The tutorials are still better than reading a wall of text on how to play the game.
The four single-player games all practice addition and subtraction in various formats. In Block, The user has to fill in two boxes in a simple problem (such as ____ + _____= 10) with number blocks hidden in a wall. The above problem may be solved with a 5 and a 5 or a 9 and a 1, or any other combination to get 10. When solved, the wall explodes and a new problem and wall are shown. The problems include both addition and subtraction, and the blank box position changes. The wall moves closer and closer to the user as time elapses.
The concept in Bridge is similar, but the user is attempting to get a cute squirrel parade across a bridge by filling it in with the correctly numbered logs to equal the number below the bridge. It’s also timed, with 30 seconds per turn.
In Estimate, a box is presented with a random collection of objects to quickly estimate the number before the visual is taken away, then type the number into a keypad. Sometimes the question is for all objects, while other times the user is asked to answer the number of just one type of objects. This game is also timed, but with a more generous amount of time on the clock. However, the final score is influenced by the time left so it’s still important to go fast.
The final area of playMath is simply titled Practice. This game provides 36 levels of flashcard-like math — with a very nice twist. The user writes the answer with a finger on a digital notepad, and the iPad recognizes the written numeral and enters it into the empty square, automatically detecting if it’s correct. This made the whole experience a lot of fun, except for one major quirk: the app doesn’t always recognize numerals, and at other times misidentifies a number. The most notable was the app’s “refusal” to acknowledge that my “5” was even a number. After much trial and error, I realized that I had to form the five in two strokes instead of one (saving the top flag for last).
I also experimented with “messy” numbers, like many first and second graders are apt to produce, and many of them were not recognized. This game, then, requires a fair amount of precision by the user, which may be difficult for those with weaker fine motor skills.
There are just a few things that would make this app a Top Pick, aside from continued refinement of the number recognition in Practice. First, nearly every level moves too quickly for special needs users and younger users (and even 39-year-old users trying to beat a math-loving husband). There needs to be a setting to add more time to game play, or remove the clock entirely on single-player games.
In addition, multiple user profiles would make this app an excellent choice for first and second grade teachers. It’s still useful without profiles, of course, but teachers may want to specify the level to start for each individual student.
Overall, this app is a great find. The games are creative and really help younger users focus on problem-solving skills with addition and subtraction. I really enjoy that this app takes an entirely different focus to problem-solving, providing a great platform to develop number sense and basic addition and subtraction in a fun format.
Heather H. admits that it's probably a little geeky to play math iPad games for date night. We'll go to the library instead. SmartAppsForKids.com was paid a priority review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.