Sunday, September 7, 2014

Singapore Math Manipulatives App - Tangible Math! Being All Thrifty!

EDIT: Available now!  Purchase on iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, or any other Android device.  And you can find out more about the app here.

....Skip way down if all you care about is the app....

I'm going to divert from writing about all the house/wood working I've been doing lately.  One project that has been filling my 'downtime' is a new app that my husband and I are working on together. 
Two years ago...
It was something I had looked for our Kindle when I started using Singapore Math for Eve in 1st grade (about two years ago). Wow, time flies.

Eve's now in 3rd Grade, Eli in 1st, and Isaac is in preschool.  I can't resist putting the occasional pictures of these cuties on here.  These are from the end of the last school year.



We've tweaked our homeschooling a little bit since that post I referenced above. (If you're just joining in, I work full time out of the home, and teach math and art after work.  My husband Jon works [very] part-time at home, and teaches the other subjects, although we cross into eachother's subjects all the time).

French: Powerglide French didn't even last a month, so that was out.  We've been slowly increasing our french children's books with some good ones.  The Duolingo app has helped Eve come along well, and recently we bought Rosetta Stone French 1 & 2 used, so we'll be trying that out soon.  I have an app idea for teaching French too... we'll see how this app does before I try to make another one.  But it could be awesome!

Language: For Eve, A Beka was replaced by Bob Jones for 2nd Grade, and for 3rd grade we've replaced Bob Jones with... nothing.  Long story short, after looking at them year by year, it seems the curriculum barely changes.  So we'll skip the seatwork this year, and formally teach grammar once at an older age.  It's not worth the battle.  We'll be focusing on spelling this year instead, which seems more important to us at this age.

Eli used McRuffy for Kindergarten, and he'll use him again for 1st Grade.  Besides all the gluing required, the program worked well for teaching Eli to read.

Science: Still a mix taken from from books on hand.  The intro to biology and chemistry were covered in 1st grade and beginning 2nd.  Now with an Apologia book and a middle school science textbook in the mix we're getting into some ::awesome:: physics and engineering concepts.

History: Story of the World is still a big hit with my husband and our kids, so they've been taking their time and going through that.  They're somewhere in the second book now.

Math: Singapore Math is still my favorite.  I've checked out a few other math curriculum at friends houses and curriculum fairs, but I still love Singapore Math the most of all I've seen.  I love that the program teaches 'number sense', which gives the child tools to understand how math works in real life, rather than always teaching to writing numbers down on paper (which of course, is taught as well). I love that I haven't run into any 'rules' that we teach one year and obsolete the next. I love that the program repeats concepts, but with increasing difficulty.  So problems are challenging and familiar.  For example, the skills learned when adding numbers 1-10 are some of the same skills used to add numbers up to a hundred.

Finally, I love that the program is manipulative based, but I didn't know that at first...  which brings me back to the point of the post.  Man, I'm long winded.

Back when Eve was in 1st grade, I learned really quickly that I was teaching her math out of order.  I would go to the text book right away, skip any hands on activities and then give her the workbook to do.  That method was nothing but tears.  She hated it.  She hated math.

Heartbroken that I was squashing Eve's love of math, I changed it up.  I thought about how she liked to learn, starting slow, lots of examples and encouraging words to give her confidence to solve the problem before she's asked to solve.  Then I went to the home instructor guide.  You know, the one I was ignoring.  Yeah, the curriculum is set up to teach with manipulatives first, and then head to text once the concept are already learned.  Whoops. 

Adding manipulatives was the first big hurtle to overcome teaching Eve math.  As a sidenote - There were also two other things that has really helped us.  The first was to use two chalkboards (one for each of us) instead of a dry erase.  The slow writing really seemed to help focus on the problem.  The second works well for us, as I work during the day. I would teach at night and then circle the pages to be done the next day while I was at work.  I allowed for the concept to have some time to sink in, and gave Eve more confidence. 

Oy, the point of the post.  I'm losing it again.  I grew to love using manipulatives... but hadn't actually bought every single one Singapore Math had listed.  And they listed a lot.  Adding up everything they suggested just for first grade is well over $75.  We did buy these mathlink cubes (Love them!  Buy them!) and base 10 cubes.  They're still not exactly cheap, but you can get them at rainbows resources for about $25 total.  We've found them well worth the money.  I recommend them in every homeschooling family's house.  Even public schoolers would do well to have them.

Handmade balance and weights - 1 base 10 cube = 1 oz and ~10 pennies = 10 oz

For the other manipulatives, we did what we could. We made up some ourselves (base 10 cards, number cards, place value strips), scanned some that came in the back of the book (hundreds charts), grabbed what I could from around the house (clocks, scales) and skipped others altogether (counting bears, place value disks).

I really didn't mind using a handmade balance or just grabbing a clock off the wall... but there were times I really wished I had some of the extras.  And then there were other times I had handmade something, like place value cards, and still didn't use them much.  I didn't want to go digging around for them and then take more time setting them up.  Often we teach math on a bed or on the couch, so setting cards up so they don't fall over isn't easy.  Sometimes with a toddler around, it's impossible.  So of course, I thought, "This would be so awesome to have in app form."

I couldn't find anything like this for Android or even the iPad. Kinda surprised, I started thinking about how I would do it.  And then planning it out. And then sketching it up.  And then that all halted when I came to asking Jon about making it.  We were in the middle of making another app (Boardgame Apprentice) so our time was limited and my idea was put on the backburner. Skip a year and a half ahead, and after lots of begging I got my husband to whip something together for me.  (I convinced him by saying it was an instant 'sale' of  $25. If he didn't make the app, I was going to break down buy $25 of the extra manipulatives I didn't have).   The first version was crude, of course, but it showed me it could be just what I wanted.

So, after a lot of development time we're almost to the point of releasing the app.  Jon (my hubby) does the programming and I do the art.  I've mentioned it before, but my preferred weapon of art is inkscape, an open source (ie, free) software.
Yes, Jon can actually spell.  He's all too good at scrabble.

We're calling the app Tangible Math: A Teaching and Manipulives Kit.  Yeah...  We, uh, still need to make a logo for that splash screen.  This would be what the app would look like if I let Jon do all the art :D

We're going to be releasing it on both Android and Apple.  It'll be our first Apple App, and we're planning on releasing our other two apps (Gladiator and Board Game Apprentice) for Apple at the same time.  We needed to have a mac to develop for Apple, which we've put off for a bit, but got one a few months ago.  That's why we've had the Mac Mini sitting around in some of my other recent posts.


So, this is what we have so far.  I know, I know, you love it already.  But don't get too attached as there will be several more changes to both design and art.

There's really so much I could go over step by step, but that would be far too much work for this 'little' post.  Plus, there's a few big things we still have to add, that I don't want to sell it too short. I'll just leave you with some pictures of what we've got, and you'll just have to buy the app when it comes out :D

The basic premise is this - There's a bunch of backgrounds to choose from and a bunch of objects you can place on the background.  There's also a drawing tool, so you can use the whole screen as a whiteboard. 

The app isn't intended to do any teaching for you.  It won't make up problems, or grade your child if they're correct.  It's a tool to be used by an instructor (for for a child to use to work out homework problems).  Plus, the open-nes gives the app the flexibility to be used with other curriculum (or no curriculum at all - great for preschool!).  I made it for my personal use with Singapore Math, but I also added anything big I saw used in Horizon's 1st grade curriculum too.


Several backgrounds have snapping points so that numbers or objects snap in a natural way.


And just a few more...


So there you have it.  We're hoping to have a tutorial in the app before its first release, we'll see how that goes time-wise.  We'd also love to have demo boards, or a guide of some sort to help give ideas of how the different boards available could be used, but that will have to wait until a future release.  Likewise, it would be cool to have an explanation of the different 'new' concepts, like number bonds. I could see this exceptionally helpful for parents of public school children who miss out on what the teacher is teaching in the lessons, but still need to help with homework.

We're hoping to have this out October 2014-ish.  A free trial version might be released, but we still need figure out the details for that.  It's a such strange phenomenon that no one wants to pay for apps.  I won't rant about it again.

Beyond that, I'll want a 2nd/3rd grade version next.  I've got more math to teach to these big kids!

EDIT: Available now!  Purchase on iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, or any other Android device.  And you can find out more about the app here.

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