Place value is often a huge challenge to teach. As a classroom teacher, I dreaded the place value unit. I always felt like there was a huge, black cloud looming overhead. However, Touchtronic’s new app, Place Value Fish is a fantastic solution to this problem. Touchtronic creates physical manipulatives, both letters and numbers, that interact with the iPad. When users place these child size manipulatives on the screen, the iPad recognizes them and the app reacts accordingly. Purchasing the number set gives you free access to the two accompanying apps: Touchtronic 1,2,3’s and Place Value Fish. Numbers sets are $20 each and not only include the digits 0-9, but also addition, multiplication, division, subtraction, greater than/less than, and equal symbols. Included in the set is a bag that cinches closed, thus providing a very handy and effective organizational tool in the classroom.
Unlike other apps in the educational genre, Place Value Fish is not designed to be a game. Instead, it is meant to be used as a teaching tool. Users place digits in the ones column, tens column, or hundreds column. Once the physical digits are placed on the screen, the screen shows representations of the numbers chosen. Place Value Fish has three modes of learning–fish (obviously), place value blocks, and abacus. The first option allows students to place digits on the screen and have the values represented with groups of ten fish. Option two allows numbers to be represented with base 10 blocks and the last option allows students to create values using an abacus. These options allow for students to choose the best teaching method for their own personal classroom and even individual students.
Place Value Fish incorporates two things that help make learning successful– it’s ability to incorporate collaborative learning and its moveable pieces. Current brain research says students who are able to communicate their learning with another individual retain and understand knowledge better. In my opinion, because this app is a teaching tool and not a game, it compliments cooperative learning strategies. Students in groups can take turns telling other students what number to build or tell students to build a number that includes a particular digit in the tens place. For instance, a student may tell his/her group members to “build a number that has a five in the tens place.” Students in the group would share their answers with one another and discuss the reasons for their choices. Secondly, research tells us that the more muscles involved in learning a new task or concept the better the material is retained.
Let’s face it, our students LOVE technology and anytime we can find a way to incorporate it into lessons, engagement instantly goes sky-high. So why not use an app that was specifically designed for children, is developmentally appropriate and conceptually correct? This app, like all the I apps I used by Touchtronic would be a valuable addition to any classroom.
Katie Chirhart is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching for sixteen years. She has specializations in early childhood and reading. Recently, she finished her Campus Technology Certification. She began her career in College Station, TX teaching a full inclusion pre-kindergarten class. Currently, Katie lives and works in Shreveport, LA. After spending ten years teaching third grade, she now teaches in an elementary iPad Lab. She has earned When time allows, she enjoys working with teachers far and wide sharing the wonders of technology. Her current job is a dream come true.