Based on solid Montessori teaching strategies, Number Train: School Edition by Oomka presents 5 different visual motor activities to teach kids the numbers one through twenty in a functional and creative manner. Not only do kids fully integrate the concepts of number sense, sequencing, and the beginning concepts of addition; it also gives kids the chance to practice tracing numbers within a guided pathway. The graphics are preschool friendly and are free of visual clutter. YAY! Here, all attention is focused on the particular task without extraneous animations or non-purposeful engagement. This means interaction is refreshingly directed to the numerals and their relationships, rather than taking the child to extraneous hot spots or other means of distraction. After completing the games for a particular number, all the hoopla and fun of popping balloons and the chance to earn stickers for your train reinforces continued play. Let’s look at all the games starting with the Introduction.
The first game entails selecting your boxcar by picking a number. Hidden inside is the corresponding number of surprises or toys. What initially presents itself is a shadow or silhouette, and to make it come to life you must target, select and highlight the objects one by one. The targeting and tapping creates a direct dimension of rhythm as to the number’s value. So TAP, TAP, TAP becomes three, and incorporates that within the body’s senses…vision, movement and hearing. And this is what helps make the material stick.
Tracing the number helps connect and gives meaning by “naming” the number to the arbitrary grouping of objects. By tracing within a pathway, kids also gain a sense of space and begin to gain control of their pencil grasp, if using a stylus. Points are awarded for hitting marks within the pathway, and kids are given 1 – 3 stars as feedback for their efforts. A nice touch is giving kids a choice of colors to use. I do wish the font for tracing the numbers was offered in a few more universal handwriting styles, as the one being used appears more driven by typeset or of being a very specific script. As an OT, I am a little bit of a stickler with this, and remember well when I was in 4th grade, our class getting a verbal lashing for making our 7s “fancy” and not being written as taught!
The Quantity Game is an early look into addition with correctly placing marbles into a box. If given the number four, by placing in that first marble, how many more do you need? Well, “Let’s Count!….1, 2, 3, and one more….4”. If you miscalculate, the number flashes red, indicating to try again. This is an activity that can also be reinforced off screen, varying objects, so that the sense of value to the number is highlighted rather than an isolated act.
The fourth game is the Sequencing Game, which helps kids set up the mindset of dealing with a numerical system based on units of ten. In the first presentation, you count the cubes, and then in a second presentation, you sequence 5 cubes in order. This is really where you can see if kids truly understand the material or not, and another one that can be duplicated off screen for further practice.
The last game is a bit challenging for preschoolers, and is called the Recognition Game. Here, sets of dominoes are presented on each side of the screen and you need to match the total number on the dominoes to the corresponding number in the middle. Again, early experiences in addition present themselves by counting the dots on the dominoes. Sequencing the counting is done in a non-continuous or interrupted format, and really tests a child’s ability to hold a mental image of the number’s value as well as working memory when counting.
All the games are ripe for direct teaching in an open and fun manner. Sharing the experience will help you connect further with your students, and they will benefit from your interactions, far beyond learning beginning math constructs. In future updates, I would really love to be able to turn off the music. For more sensory sensitive or highly distractible kids, you would need to mute the sound to keep focused, and then miss out on the direct cuing from the app and the fun sounds while doing an activity. This app is recommended for both home and classroom, and presents a comprehensive learning experience for preschoolers.
About the Author
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play everyday; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.