I am happy to announce that the first app from The App Engine That Could is Mathbeat!
Mathbeat is an app designed to help improve math drill skills. I have spent a fair amount of time drilling my grade-school age children with flashcards. We had been looking for an app that would help with these skills, but nothing was quite what I was looking for. My kids could go so much faster with the flashcards than on any of the apps I had downloaded for them, and isn’t the point of math drills to go fast?
So I started the design of Mathbeat around wanting an app that would help them move quickly through solving multiplication, addition, subtraction and division problems. I didn’t want it to be multiple choice. I did want to use a standard numeric keypad layout for entry (if you’re going to learn to punch in numbers quickly, the skill might as well transfer to something other than this app–and I’ve certainly punched a LOT of numbers into numeric keypads over the years).
Besides the standard numeric keypad entry, I, as a parent, wanted to be able to review what they’d done without watching over their shoulder the whole time. I didn’t want them to just be punching buttons until they ‘found’ the correct answer. The next criteria was to show problem solving history, and how they’d done on each problem, with an incentive to get it right the first time.
I decided that I didn’t want to show incorrect answers in the history, just a score for each solved problem. This was a design decision. I wanted my kids (or any player) to remember the right solution to each problem, and I thought that there was more benefit in seeing the correct answer than any that were incorrect. Perhaps it will help them remember the right answer if that’s what they see.
Next, I decided that I wanted this app to move on immediately once the player punched in the correct answer, and not move on until they did. There is no ‘Enter’ key in Mathbeat. There is a ‘Clear’ button in case you realize partway through entering a multi-digit number that you’re on the wrong track. But if you’re punching in the correct numbers, the app just keeps moving. Taking out that extra keystroke really helped speed things up.
Okay, and we’ve got to have some challenge to it. Mathbeat has a one minute timer and will score a player with how many problems they can solve minus how many you got wrong in one minute. It’s definitely worth getting the problem right the first time! We had kept our kids fastest flashcard times on the fridge, and were always working with them to try to improve their individual best. I wanted the app to keep up with the best score of each player, so you can add multiple players in the app. Note that player information stays in the app’s sandbox and isn’t shared outside the app or among devices. If you get a great score on one iPad, it stays there even if you have the app loaded on another iPad. It’s great for privacy. A future version may allow you to transfer players or share scores.
Mathbeat also allows you to select the problem range and operators that you want to practice with. It keeps two high scores: the highest score you have for all operators [+,-,×,÷] on the full range [0-12], and the highest score you have for anything other than that (maybe just multiplication up to 10, for instance). And you can set a goal for how many problems you want to solve in the minute, or have Mathbeat automatically update your goal as one more than your highest score (the default).
Mathbeat, as of the publishing of this post, is in it’s final testing before being submitted for approval to the App Store. Mathbeat v1.0 will be available for Apple iPad running iOS 5.0 and later.