The Math Jungle Grade 1 app by Little Big Thinkers for first grade uses an adorable monkey as its main character to engage children in solving math problems. The monkey journeys along a trail of bananas which he collects on his way to solving the math problems. You must manipulate the monkey up and down along the trails in order to avoid obstacles such as plants and rocks as he collects the bananas. The collection of bananas helps score points and running into the obstacles deducts points. The monkey stops throughout the path to solve math problems in order to continue on his journey. Upon my initial exploration of this app I was trying to make the connection between the collection of bananas and the math problems. I thought that perhaps the bananas would give you clues or hints to help solve the problems but I could not find any connection. The collection of bananas appeared to only assist in the total number of points earned for the player.
While the math problems are simple enough initially; the user would need to have some foundational math skills in order to solve the problems on the first try. I liked that there were three choices of either answers or equations for the player to select and there weren't any time restrictions or negative factors associated with wrong choices. Children can get support to help solve the problems by clicking on the question mark. I especially liked the wide array of examples using picture clues, sets, and a number line to assist the user. Parents can further support their child's understanding by engaging along with explanations of how these visual aides support solving the problems. No matter what, the player would eventually get the right answer through the process of elimination! This would allow for continued active engagement.
The best part of math jungle is that it provides fun practice for basic arithmetic problem solving, addition, subtraction and equality of sets. The manipulation of the monkey by swiping up and down along with the collection of points and ribbons and having the monkey dance upon completion of a round is reward enough to keep the user actively engaged.
Here are some of the recommendations:
The background music is cute along with the jungle noises at first but after continued play I muted the sound, perhaps having the monkey talk and say the actual numbers and equations would provide more familiarity with the different types of mathematical terms. Understanding and gathering a repertoire of math vocabulary is an important foundational skill for first graders!
The monkey will continually dance after each round and this is so adorable that I could see children just watching this for quite some time and not clicking on the arrow to continue the journey of solving problems.
The math problems appear to be very random and there are easy problems, mixed in with more difficult ones. There doesn't seem to be any sequential or scaffolded order to them.
However, Math Jungle for first grade is certainly a fun app that would provide an opportunity to learn and practice math facts for young users not just first graders. I could definitely see second graders and even some of my third graders enjoying practicing their basic math facts and computational skills with this app at home. As a teacher, there wasn't any real way to track a student's progress but it could be a way to reinforce individualized practice at home and as a learning center in school.
About the Author
Lisa Carew, MS Educational Technology; MA in Literacy; TESOL Certification; BA; AAS, is an elementary school teacher currently teaching third grade in Southampton, New York. Her diverse educational experiences and expertise as a general education teacher in a Dual Language Classroom provides insight to the daily pedagogical shifts currently taking place in classrooms throughout the nation. Lisa’s ongoing collaborations with bilingual educators, special educators, TESOL teachers, administrators, and parents reflects firsthand how technological applications are supporting student’s learning, teacher’s teaching, and parents as partners! (edit)