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Introducing Cue Up

Think about music in a movie for a moment. You can often anticipate what’s about to happen from the musical cues. Cue Up is an app that lets you put musical cues on a schedule—to give your day a sound track and you a way to know what part of the day or night it is by the music you hear.

And it’s a little more than simply playlists on a schedule. Each cue in your day can have a prelude which leads into the cue, so you can anticipate what’s about to happen before it actually does. Let’s say you want to wake at 6am. You may create a cue and set the time for 6am, adding the music you want to play starting at 6am to the playlist. But you can also add songs to a prelude. These songs will play leading up to 6am, ending just in time for your cue. And if there’s a volume difference in whatever’s on the schedule before 6am and your 6am cue, Cue Up will use the prelude to gradually adjust the volume. Want to play music softly overnight then gradually ramp up the volume as it’s nearing your time to wake? This can do it for you which may help you better anticipate when it’s time to wake.

And about that alarm thing: an obnoxious beeping? Maybe some sort of not as obnoxious chimes? Nah. How about a voice that delivers your cue. Don’t you think you’d respond better to a voice than to beeps? Write your own custom messages to hear spoken for your cues.

We think its a great way to wake up. Think about this: rather than waiting until it’s actually time to wake up to set off an alarm to jolt you out of sleep, give yourself a musical heads up to what’s coming next—then wake to a voice delivering your cue. We’re not making any claims for how it will work for you. People are all different; but we use it ourselves and have enjoyed waking this way ever since we got the first prototype working and found we loved it.

We’d love to hear about how you use it and your experience with it!


Disclaimer: we haven’t done any studies on whether this is a better way to wake and we’re not making any claims that it is or that it will wake you or that our little app will improve your life in any way. We are sharing our experience and our experience using it ourselves is a good one. And we provide it free for you to try—which we think is the best way anyway. We hope you try it and find that your experience is great!

Cue Up — The Prelude

Most mornings I am not conscious of the prelude, but I’m up by the first syllable of my morning cue message. I think the prelude helps me prepare to wake. That is what my experience has been virtually every morning for months now as I’ve been developing Cue Up. Here’s what I’ve found that I enjoy: I fill my prelude with ~20 minutes of songs that are not in my overnight playlist. Generally, they fall into the New Age genre. I start with slower tempo and build the tempo with each song, but it’s still music you would be more likely to relax to than work out with. But it’s the same every morning, and always leads up to my cue to wake. Like Pavlov’s dog, I think the consistent sound may help me anticipate and prepare for what’s next. Feel free to let me know how you use Cue Up. Enjoy!

Cue Up — Sharing Cue Up

It happens almost every morning in our house. I like to get up well before everyone else. So what if you both want to use Cue Up, but you and your spouse plan to get up at different times? There are more than one way you can do this. But here are a couple that we like:

Share a single device: Set up an overnight cue with great music to sleep to. Then set up a cue for each of you. When the first to wake gets up, they can switch off their cue in the schedule. Cue Up will then revert back to the overnight playlist until it’s time for the second cue. Don’t forget to turn the first cue back on before you need it again!

Using two devices: Two devices can both be plugged in and set up to wait quietly until it’s time for their respective cues, or the one with the later cue can play music overnight while the one with the earlier cue waits quietly until it’s time to cue. Pillow or bone conducting speakers may also help isolate the sound enough that each is able to have their own cues without disturbing the other.

Also, try putting your name in your cue message. You probably pay more attention to your own name that others do. Try using different music for each of your preludes and playlists, and messages that are easy to tell the difference from one another. If they sound different, you and your spouse will have an easier time hearing your own cues.

Cue Up — Playback Control

Did you know that you can control playback for Cue Up through Control Center (swipe up from bottom)? Even if Cue Up is not currently playing you can start playback. It can take a few seconds after you tap ‘play’ in Control Center to start if the app was closed, but this lets you start playing your schedule without needing to unlock the device or switch to Cue Up. I find this a convenient way to listen to music in my car. I plug in my phone as soon as I get in, swipe up to bring up Control Center and hit ‘play’, and that’s it! I don’t even need to unlock and Cue Up plays the music and speaks cues as I’ve scheduled. It’s a very convenient way to listen to my music. To appear in Control Center, Cue Up must be the last app to use Control Center for playback control and Control Center must be enabled in Settings.

Mathbeat Update


Mathbeat Version 1.1 is now available! Highlights of the new release include:

  • Mathbeat is now compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch! (it still works for iOS 5.0+)
  • It’s not just a new icon and building the images for iPhone, the iPad graphics have been cleaned up too. It should be easier to find the Player Info button now, which has been moved next to the player name.
  • The player settings abbreviation on the settings page under the ‘Best of…’ titles (and look something like ‘0-10 +- 0-10’, which, for example, means the settings are for addition and subtraction problems with both the first and second operand range set from zero through ten) now act as hotkeys to select those settings. For instance, if you want to play on the full range with all operators, select the abbreviation under the ‘Full Range’ title. If you want to try to beat your best of any setting, using the same settings as you did for your top score, select the abbreviation under the ‘Any Range’ title.
  • A visual cue (a ‘✓’ or ‘✗’) has been added to the auditory cue (the ding or buzz) for immediate feedback on whether an answer was correct or not.
  • The changes aren’t all cosmetic! The problem generating engine at the heart of Mathbeat has also been improved. You should now see every problem in your set range once and only once before you see any problems repeated. Before, every time Mathbeat needed a new problem it would be randomly generated on the range requested. Now, when the settings are set, all the problems are generated on the set range. Mathbeat randomly selects one of the problems from this set and won’t reuse that problem again until all the other problems in the set have been used by Mathbeat.
  • …and a number of more minor tweaks to continue to improve the Mathbeat experience.


Now Available!

Mathbeat and Mathbeat Free are now available for iPad on the App Store! Follow the App Store link in the upper right sidebar.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Mathbeat (from the perspective of an educator and mother)

Mathbeat is a basic part of our schooling. We use it daily for math drill practice. It only takes a minute to play one round of Mathbeat, but if we do it each day, that adds up to a lot of drill practice! Of course, since it is so easy to check students’ progress on Mathbeat, I can easily tell whether one minute of drill for the day has been enough or whether more practice is needed.

Here are the top ten reasons that I love Mathbeat for daily educational purposes:

10. My kids can drill basic math facts as quickly as possible without my having to take time each day to flip flashcards for them.

9. Unlike with regular flashcards, we don’t have to waste time getting the cards out, turning them all the right way, picking them up after we drop them, pulling out only the facts that we want to practice that day, cleaning them up, etc. Setup is quick and easy, no matter which facts I want the kids to practice for the day. Cleanup is even easier.

8. Unlike with regular flashcards, my kids can’t pretend to do their best without actually figuring out the answers. Mathbeat tells me how they are doing and doesn’t let them just skip over the challenging problems.

7. The sound effects give me an easy way to monitor how my kids are doing without having to watch over their shoulders.

6. The notebook gives me an easy way to go back and find out how my kids have been doing even if the sound has been turned off, or I have been out of the room or busy with something else.

5. The app doesn’t have a bunch of frilly cutesy stuff that only serves to distract my kids from the math.

4. The high score records keep my competitive kids super motivated to keep playing and doing better.

3. The child who loves math absolutely loves Mathbeat.

2. The child who hates math absolutely loves Mathbeat.

1. To my kids, flashcards = boring, but Mathbeat = FUN and COOL.

Mathbeat Scores: ‘Top Score’ and ‘Full Score’

Mathbeat keeps track of two high scores for each player, and a goal for each of these high scores. These are labeled as the ‘Top Score’ and the ‘Full Score’, and are based on how you’ve set things up.


The Top Score is the high score for any way you have the settings. Maybe you’ve decided to practice multiplication by 6. Perhaps you’ve decided to practice addition and subtraction. Perhaps you’ve selected all the operators. Regardless of your settings, the Top Score records your best—of any problem types over any range.

The Full Score is you high score for one particular special combination. ‘Full’ means all the operators, on all the range covered by Mathbeat. To play to beat your Full Score, make sure all the operators (+,-,×,÷) are selected, and both the top and bottom operand ranges are set 0 through 12. You can set this quickly by tapping the blue Full Range description: 0-12 +-×÷ 0-12 (on the Settings screen just under the “Best of All Operators, Full Range” title)

Mathbeat: How to get the math problems you want


Mathbeat allows you to select the types of math problems it gives you to solve by selecting the operators (+,-,×,÷) and the range for both operands (between 0 and 12).

Let’s say you want to work on your multiplication by 6 facts. Select only the ‘×’ to limit problems to multiplication, then adjust the top operand range to ‘6 through 6’. You can adjust the range numbers using the -+ buttons below each range number. The bottom range can be ‘0 through 12’. Hit ‘Done’ and Mathbeat will present you with problems like ‘6 × 4’, ‘6 × 0’, or ‘6 × 10’. The top (first) number will always be 6. The bottom number will be anything on the range from 0 through 12.


Multiplication by 6

Perhaps you want to practice addition and subtraction? Make sure the ‘+’ and ‘-’ operators are selected and the other two aren’t. Adjust your top and bottom operand ranges as desired. Note that Mathbeat will never give you a problem that has an answer less than zero. If it generates a subtraction problem with the top value less than the bottom, it will swap them to ensure the top value is always greater than or equal to the bottom value before it presents it to you to solve.


Addition and Subtraction with Answers on Range from 0 to 20

What about division? For division, you actually select the answer range. Answers will always be whole values (integers). Let’s say you’ve been working on multiplication facts for 6, and want to mix it up a bit by also including related division problems. Adjust the top range to be 6 through 6, and the bottom range as desired (perhaps 0 through 12). Now select both the ‘×’ and ‘÷’ operators, and make sure the other two are not selected. Hit ‘Done’ and now not only will you get problems like ‘6 × 5’, but you’ll also get problems like ’30 ÷ 5’ who’s answer is 6. It may be a bit trivial to only select a single value like 6 for the range of answers, but I hope you get the idea for how you can use it.


Multiplication and Division: 6 Facts Family

Want to play on the full range with all the operators? Go for it! Mathbeat keeps track of that high score separately, so you have a standard that you can always come back to and play against.


All Types, Full Range

Announcing Mathbeat


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.