I have a love/hate relationship with math. I cannot do mental math to SAVE MY LIFE. Being a bartender in a ski resort during apres was a nightmare for me. I just never solidified basics in my head. On paper, however, I can kill it. Ironically, my mom has her PhD in Math. Go figure. I had to take my Calculus 2 final exam verbally with my professor in his office because I could explain it and do it step by step, yet somehow when I went to paper, I couldn’t do it. I would get messed up in all the little basics that by the time I reached an answer, I was way off.
This brings me to an absolutely AMAZING app called Snow Day Math by Beth Stade, who works at CU Boulder and also for many small grants. She is one of those people who gets math and knows that everyone else can get math if they just know the fundamentals. This is one of the coolest apps out there. (no pun intended with the snow…cool…get it?)
Snow Day Math helps you learn place value, something that many kids (and adults) struggle with. The app allows you to touch the numbers, stack them, pull them apart and repel. The app is not set as a game, there’s not right or wrong, which is imperative for those who have had a bad experience with math and feel incompetent. As you move the numbers, you notice that you can’t add numbers that add up to more than ten on top of each other without splitting them to first reach the decade and then add the rest. Same with 100. I’m not the most eloquent with math terms, so I’m sure I’ve messed up already (sorry math aficionados).
We piloted the app with first graders last year, and with some we scaffolded it and had them use real counters next to their iPads while with others we just let them “figure it out.” We also worked with students to have them verbally share their explanations of why they could add certain numbers and not others. Beth worked with second graders this year for her research and came up with incredible findings on how kids were able to use the app in their head to help answer tough problems. Another amazing finding was that without introducing subtraction, students were able to immediately transfer their understandings from addition to subtraction when using the app. Amazing.