I won’t lie, I never much liked maths. I mean, I think most kids like it up until a point and then it either grabs you or you end up putting yourself in that class of people who hear static whenever they’re confronted with numbers.
I even did pretty well at maths in high school but once I left school it was something I used only occasionally and now I can actually feel the mental block raise in my head whenever anyone starts throwing figures at me. If I don’t have a calculator and an Excel formula to take care of the dirty work I don’t want to know about it.
This isn’t a story about how something amazing changed my view and I can suddenly do maths…
What’s worse (for me anyway) is that my husband has an innate sense of numbers, so I tend to just leave it to him. Lazy? Yeah pretty much. Bite me.
This isn’t a story about how something amazing changed my view and I can suddenly do maths, but it is a story about how my eldest son (who has just turned 6 and is in Grade R) is developing a growing fascination with maths before he can even read.
I was approached recently with regards to an app called Smartick. It’s designed for children between the ages of 4 to 14 years old. The really cool thing about it is the fact it’s ability based. It scales with the child, so if your kid is a maths genius then it will progressively harder in order to challenge your child sufficiently. If your child struggles with certain concepts, likewise the artificial intelligence will spend a bit more time on certain concepts in order to help your child grasp them. Once the session is complete, there is the option to make corrections and gain extra stars.
To that point, it was one of things I really liked in that it doesn’t restrict the content your child is seeing according to age. The app pushes them and encourages them to go as far as they can in order to assess their capabilities as they grasp new concepts.
Smartick claims this builds self confidence and develops a positive relationship with mathematics. Is this true? Well if my son’s enthusiasm to complete his maths every day is anything to go by, then I would say so! According to their data, apparently “94% of children improve their grades in school after only 2 months”. Given that my child isn’t assessed in that manner because of his age, it’s difficult for me to tell, but I’ve seen his scores consistently improve over the weeks as he learns and grasps new concepts.
Since he stays at home with my mom in the afternoons after school, she does the maths with him, but I have a tutor partner app on my phone that not only notifies me when he starts and finishes the session, but also how well he has performed in it. If, like my son, they haven’t yet learned to read you can mark this in the settings and there is an audio option that will read the question to them.
I have only a couple of criticisms
You can track their performance and see which concepts they struggle with so you can perhaps spend a bit of extra time explaining them.
Each session is approximately 15 minutes and when you receive the session report it tells you how fast they completed the tasks assigned to them.
What was interesting for me was the fact my son started with this in his school holidays. It meant that it was the first thing he did when he woke up in the morning (out of choice), as opposed to something he did when he came home from school and wasn’t quite as fresh. While he definitely loses a bit of focus from time to time (trying to watch TV and do maths at the same time is never a good combination!), on the whole he’s retained a real enthusiasm for doing it every day, and I’ve seen him apply it to stuff he brings home from school.
It was the first thing he did when he woke up in the morning
I have only a couple of criticisms of the app – one of which is related to the questions, and the other which is related to the app itself.
Firstly, if you have other notification screen overlays active on your tablet and they pop up while you’re busy, the section of the screen with the question on it goes blank and there’s no way to recover it. If this happens at the beginning of the question it means the child must guess the answer if they didn’t see the question in time.
Secondly, some of the questions are not straightforward to understand for a child. In fact some of them are downright ambiguous and when he asked me for help I had to read through it very carefully to get a proper understanding of what was being asked! I feel there is room for an example of each question to clarify what exactly is expected.
Lastly, some of the terminology for a child isn’t user friendly. For example, they refer to a rekenrek. Aside from the fact that we know it as an abacus (there’s a slight difference but on the whole it’s a counting device), a child of 6 doesn’t know what an abacus OR a rekenrek is, and without an explanation I don’t know that they instinctively know what to do. I suppose this ties into my previous comment with regards to tutorials and explanations.
Find out more here and watch the intro video below. The first 15 days are free and thereafter it’s a paid subscription, however I’m almost certain you’ll see an improvement in your child’s enjoyment of mathematics. Even with my (minor) criticisms, I would highly recommend giving Smartick a try!