Websites and Apps from NYSCATE 2013 Presentation

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Here is a list of websites and apps demonstrated during my session at NYSCATE 2013. where you can download the full curriculum modules for free. access Eureka, the interface for the full math curriculum modules.

Number Pieces (Free): Virtual Base 10 blocks and whiteboard

AL Abacus ($1.99): Virtual abacus, sometimes called a Rekenrek

10 Frame Fill (Free): Basic ten-frame game/app.

Virtual Manipulatives! (Free): Fraction, decimal and percentage tiles

Teaching Table ($2.99): Smartboard-like manipulatives and interactivity for math presentations

Number Bonds: Addition & Subtraction to 99 ($1.99): Number bonds app for composing and decomposing numbers

Bugsy Kindergarten Math ($2.99): Fun game to practice K-1 skills

Splash Math website & apps ($9.99 per grade level): Adaptive Common Core-aligned math practice, with individual users

Numberland ($2.99): Montessori-based early numbers practice

Marble Math ($2.99): Game-interfaced math practice with choice of levels & subjects

Hands-on Equations ($4.99): Learn to solve for a variable step-by-step from concept to procedure

Thinking Blocks (All apps free): Solve word problems while making models interactively

Conceptua Math: Online tools and curriculum for math. Very strong for fractions.

Common Core Standards Viewer (Free): Interactive Common Core standards viewer with flow from one to the next



More Math Apps for iPad: Singapore Math and Common Core

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

It’s been a while since my last post on iPad apps, and in the meantime a lot has happened. For one thing, I have downloaded and tried quite a number of math apps. I’m going to start a round-up of some of the most useful apps as I have time.

number bondsFirst up: exciting news! The Number Bond software, that I lamented being only on Mac or PC for so long, is now ported to iOS. As far as I can tell, having downloaded only the addition/subtraction version, it’s pretty much exactly the same as the computer version.

This has its pros and cons. Pros: the familiar interface, its simplicity, and the fact that it does one thing – it teaches number bonds at different levels. Cons: In light of the outstanding, more powerful software out there, it takes advantage of very few of these features. For example, it is not adaptive, meaning the difficulty does not change with the user’s proficiency. It also does not save user data, something the better educational software is doing (as I’ll discuss later), even emailing it weekly to the parent or teacher if desired. It also has a few bugs to iron out, which I’m sure will happen soon.

So would I recommend it? Yes, as a practice tool for a child at home or as a station in the classroom – but I would love to see it get more developer attention and become more powerful.

Download Number Bonds: Addition & Subtraction to 99

Next up: AL Abacus

For anyone teaching/homeschooling with Singapore Math or a Common Core curriculum, such as Eureka Math, or working with a child with a math learning disability, you will find  that the Slavonic Abacus, or Rekenrek, is incredibly useful for teaching number sense and place value. It breaks down numbers into groups of five and ten, which are easy to manipulate mentally, not least because our hands are right in front of us since we are in the womb, with five fingers each (otherwise known as digits!). While having the concrete manipulative is ideal for sensory feedback, sometimes teachers want to project the abacus to a group, or show a demonstration to a small group. This is where the iPad version, AL Abacus, comes in.

AL Abacus to 100This app is a Slavonic Abacus with two modes. The first is the side with numbers to 100. To access this side, hold the abacus in landscape (horizontal) mode. When all the beads are to the right, it is like pressing “C” (or Clear) on a calculator. To reset all the beads, just tilt the iPad to the left – exactly like on a real abacus. Just slide single or groups of beads to the left to add, subtract, multiply, or divide within 100.

AL Abacus to 1000sThe second side is accessed by turning the iPad to portrait, or vertical, orientation. In this mode, you can work with numbers to 1000, with different columns of beads representing the different place values. This can be a very powerful, easy tool for computing whole numbers through the thousands. To reset the beads, just lift the iPad up, and the beads all fall to the bottom.

Incidentally, this second side was designed by Dr. Joan Cotter, who did her doctoral dissertation using it. Her website, with additional resources, including how to use the AL Abacus, is

This is an almost perfect representation of a physical version of the abacus. There are only two things missing, in my view: the sound of the beads clicking together, which would be great sensory feedback.

Download AL Abacus – Activities for Learning, Inc.

Since this tool is new to many people, here are some other resources besides just the iPad version.

Do you have other ideas or resources for teaching number bonds or using the Rekenrek? Post them in the comments!

iPad Apps for Education: Part 1 – Stop Math

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012


As an eager tech user as well as a teacher who likes to use any tools that are handy, I am always trying out new ways to engage students. I recently obtained an iPad and have been trying to fill it with the best educational tools possible.

photo 1

Imagine my delight when I found an interactive book app all about math! The book is called Stop Math, by Jeff Weigel. It is set in the future, when time travel is possible. A young boy dislikes math, thinking it’s a torture device for schoolchildren. He decides to find the person who invented it and stop them from inventing it.

photo 3

The book then takes you on an interactive journey back through time, where he meets various characters from history, like Einstein and Newton, all of whom contributed to our current understanding of math.

Even better, on each page, there is an interactive element the child can play with – which they love to do. There are even side journeys where a student can play with an interactive widget to learn, for example, about relativity.

photo 4

My one minor criticism is that the only computation children are asked to do involves a calculator. They are not even given the chance to try to figure out the answer mentally or on paper, but must rely on the calculator in the book until the final calculation, where they are expected to subtract with the algorithm but without the ability to regroup (borrow) on the screen, which is beyond some students.

Other than that, every student I have shown it to, from kindergarteners through middle schoolers, has enjoyed it and learned something. It appeals to any age – I didn’t get too tired of it even after reading it with so many students time and time again – and has a good message about math in the end. I highly recommend it! $3.99 on the iTunes App Store.

Review: Number Bonds Software for Singapore Math

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011


Number bonds software

Crystal Springs Books recently produced a new software program for number bonds practice. This concept is foundational to Singapore Math. Number bonds can be used for everything from addition and subtraction to understanding fractions, and Singapore Math makes great use of them in its teaching.

The software, intended for grades K-2, is a simple Flash-based program. The CD comes with installers for both Mac OS and Windows. The program is small and snappy, even on older or slower computers; I have tried it on a first-generation Macbook Pro as well as two netbooks. I have used the software with young students and demonstrated it in front of a group of teachers, and this is what we found.

The program comes with four different games, ranging from very basic to more advanced. In the first game, Pond Bonds, children must move frogs to the appropriate lily pad to form correct number bonds. In the second game, Bird Bonds, the purpose is to move the appropriate bird to the right hole in the birdhouse. In this one, each bird is labeled with a number. The third game, Which Number, shows number bonds with one of the numbers missing; students must click on the correct number to complete the bond. The final game, Which Bond, gives students a number at the top of the screen, with two number bonds below. The student must click on the correct question mark where the top number should go.

The games follow the progression of Concrete > Pictorial > Abstract, which is known to lead to student success. Picking up a kicking frog and dropping it on the lily pad, or hearing it splash in the water, triggers concrete sensory feedback, especially when used with a touch screen or interactive white board. Moving birds with numbers on them starts to combine the concrete with the abstract, and the shapes of the holes in the birdhouse mirror the shapes of the number bonds in the next levels. The final two levels use the pictorial and abstract levels to good effect.

The software has several options for customization. For each game, you can set a numerical range, a time limit, and a number of players. Be aware, though, that if you go with the defaults, it may be a recipe for failure; the time limit is set to lowest, and the numbers are set to the highest range, meaning even a very fast adult can’t get a very high score. I wish the defaults had been reversed. On the other hand, if you need to move students quickly through stations, the fast pace can be good. The fastest time may not allow adequate time for learning, though. Once you set the settings for a game, they stay that way until you change them.

One area where this software is lacking is educational feedback for the player. On the early games, if you miss a question, you can go back and try again, but you don’t receive any clues about what went wrong. On the higher games, if you miss one, too bad; you can’t even try again. I would like to see some sort of helpful feedback when mistakes are made.

When you have one player set, the score for the player is displayed at the end of the game. For more players, the others have to sit through each entire set until the scores are displayed at the end. I think more interactive game play would be nice. There is no way to save scores in the software, either. I would recommend that teachers create individual score sheets for students to keep track of their scores and how they improve over time, so they compete against themselves, not against others.

Since the software is Flash-based, it cannot run on iOS devices. I hope they develop a version for that platform soon.

UPDATE: As of March 2013, an iOS version is available! Read the review here.

Conclusion: Highly Recommended
Number Bonds is a simple, inexpensive software package that can provide extra addition and subtraction practice in the classroom or at home. Children find it fun and engaging, and it provides good composing and decomposing practice, as well as mental addition and subtraction. I would use it for a wider age range of children; it can be helpful for differentiating, like with more advanced preschoolers and upper elementary students who need foundational number bond practice. It would be nice if the software had a few more features, but I’m sure those features would take away from the software’s speedy response on older hardware. For best results, it should be run on a touch device, so it would be great if it could be installed on iOS or Android in the future.

Not expensive
Site license available
Small and fast
Good educational design (concrete > pictorial > abstract)
Fun for children
Range of levels and challenges
Compatible with a wide range of desktops and laptops
Singapore math-based!

Not enough feedback on mistakes
Can’t save score data
Settings need to be reset when first played
Not a true multiplayer game
Needs teacher introduction to be most effective (not stand-alone)
Teachers need training to make the most of it, but program-based help is minimal

ISTE 2011: On my way

Monday, June 27th, 2011



ISTE 2011 is up and running, and it’s huge! Look for me there with Conceptua Math at booth 2852 on Wednesday morning before and after our session. I will also be presenting with Arjan Khalsa, the CEO and founder, at this session: The tools are extremely intuitive and valuable, work great with a white board or tablet (but not iPads), and have helped many children understand how fractions work. They are also very compatible with Singapore Math.

BugMath for iPhone/iPod Review

Monday, February 7th, 2011


A new app for iPhone/iPod, called BugMath, came out recently. It claims to teach young children math skills based on Singapore Math methods.

To experience it, I played my way through the various games, which are fun and have cute graphics. I saw how they can reinforce counting and memory skills. However, I don’t see how they are based on Singapore Math principles, so I think they are using the words “Singapore Math” as a sales gimmick.

For these ages, 3-6, the game would use a true Singapore Math approach if it integrated number stories and number bonds. Also, the addition/subtraction game is entirely too random to teach those concepts. Yes, the children can count the number of bugs to calculate the answer, but that is not unique to Singapore Math. A good math practice game would progress from easy to difficult, but this game randomizes the questions, which makes it more like a quiz than a teaching tool.

Is it a good game for young children? It makes math fun, and it’s well designed for a game (except for the Space Invaders-imitation game, which would be too challenging for the motor skills of young children). So if you would like an entertaining game that has some educational value, it’s worth the two dollars. Just don’t expect it to be a true Singapore Math-based game.

For another review, see this page.


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