Best Tip Ever: Math Vs Dinosaurs App

How do you help your students become fluent in their basic addition and subtraction facts?

According to the Common Core State Standards,

[all students should fluently] add and subtract within 20… [and by the] end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers. (CCSS Math)

During math in their classrooms, my students learn strategies for adding and subtracting mentally– making ten, doubles facts, doubles facts plus one, etc. My role is to help them move from strategies to memorization.

As you know, I love using the iPad with my students in first through third grade. I am always searching for math apps that help my students build their computation skills and fine tune their automaticity with recalling facts. Addition apps are easy to find. Apps that focus on subtraction are a little bit harder.

Well that changed when I found Math vs Dinosaurs by Peaksel, LLC! What first caught my attention were the pictures. They were vibrant and realistic. In fact, when the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals walked across the screen, the screen shook from their weight. (That tickled me every time and made me smile.)

The other important selling point was the availability of practice with all of the operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Finally, one of the best features was the appearance of a hero and heroine; students could choose between a male or female character to help them “compute” their way through prehistoric times.

Many have talked about gender equity in math and science. Math vs Dinosaurs made a good attempt to follow through with this goal. The free version allowed students to practice addition and subtraction. The paid version unlocked multiplication and division.

This app was not just “flash cards” wrapped up in a game. Remember I am “old-school,” so, flash cards still have their place in helping students retain and recall facts. However, when looking for new instructional tools, I expect technology to go beyond flash cards. Math vs Dinosaurs tested students’ recall of basic facts while including algebraic concepts and critical thinking opportunities. The number sentences were represented in different ways:

  • Find the sum, difference, product, or quotient– 3 + 3 = n, 10 – 5 = n, 3 * 4 = n, and 12 / 4 = n;
  • Find the missing addend, subtrahend, factor, or divisor– 3 + n = 6, 10 – n = 5, 3 * n = 12, and 12 / n = 3;
  • Find the number sentence given specific sums, differences, products, and quotients– Number given: 12, Number sentences: 3 + 5, 4 + 4, 8 + 5, or 6 + 6.

You could adjust the settings to have students work with whole numbers or decimals, in addition to the operations used during the game.  Finally, it would not be complete if the app did not teach students about different dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. Each level had a brief article about the prehistoric creature that would appear in the next level. Math and science topics had been integrated seamlessly in this app. Best of all, my students enjoyed playing the games. It is very rare you hear students verbally interacting with a math-related game. Just as some people talk back to a movie screen, my students were talking back to the IPad.

This app is available for iPad and Android tablets. It is worth it to buy the paid version. I actually downloaded the paid version on my personal iPad and let my students use that version (apps paid or free on school iPads have to be approved before downloading). Once I found it, I had to share it with my students right away (even relaxing my security issues with my own IPad).

Android or iPad, this app is worth including in your students’ or child’s game repertoire.

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First Published February 6, 2015