Years before I became your friendly neighborhood tech blogger, I was a teacher. In 2015, my wife celebrated* her 20th year as a teacher. All this to say we know our pedagogy, which makes it difficult for us to find education apps that we're satisfied with. While Math Shake for iPad (free with in-app purchases) isn't long on looks, it's got it where it counts. Specifically, it presents word problems along with tools and strategies that help students discover the solution. It's quite well done.
Math Shake divides problems into six ability levels, from Beginner (6- to 7-year-olds) up to Genius (11- to 13-year olds). Beginner is available for free, while the other levels are available via in-app purchase at $1.99 each (or you can grab the lot for $2.99). Once you've chosen the appropriate level, decide if you're going to work on addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. From there, the lessons begin.
Your little learner is presented with a word problem and a friendly little character who guides him or her through the process of working it out. The app asks the student to identify the numbers and, more importantly, the words in the problem that suggest what operation is required to find the solution. Each of these elements is dragged into a series of colorful boxes that end up creating the clear, easily-solved equation that will solve the problem. Then the app moves on to my favorite part.
Instead of letting the child make his or her best educated guess before entering an answer, Math Shake provides a wealth of tools to aid in problem solving. A whiteboard appears that's to be used as an electronic scratch pad. The child can draw with a finger or use a number line, manipulative counters, diagrams and so much more to come to the answer. Once that's done, they enter the answer they worked out. It's something I haven't seen in a math app before and I really love it. Math Shake isn't a game that has students guessing at word problems; it's a tool that fosters the skills they'll need to solve problems like this in the real world. Finally, students can record themselves explaining how they came to their answer.
There are two versions of Math Shake available. The free edition with the in-app purchases, and Math Shake for schools, which comes with all lessons and a stand-alone whiteboard feature for $2.99. Bulk pricing is also available for schools.
The art isn't the best, but the teaching is. Math Shake comes AWT recommended.
*"Celebrated" might be a little strong.