Math is one of the subjects that has lent itself well to mobile technologies like the iPad. Transforming math education from static pencil and paper workbooks to lively, engaging, creative apps has changed math comprehension for many struggling students. BuzzMath is both an iPad math app and a website that aims to help students practice and learn middle school math skills. The app looks to make students math masters by giving practice questions linked to math middle school NCTM common core standards.
BuzzMath has 2,800 math activities with a variety of answer inputs, such as multiple choice, matching, ordering or open text box, and handy features such as automated corrections and infinite question retries. The questions give feedback for incorrect answers and are randomly generated. The 6th and 7th Grade lessons on the app cover a breadth of topics including fractions, decimals, roots, exponents, scientific notation, algebraic expressions, measurement and many more. The questions are closely linked to common core standards, and are well laid out on the screen. Each question is accompanied with an example that has been worked out and explained in basic, plain English. This is a very important feature that many other math apps can fail at.
The student version of the BuzzMath app allows for some personalisation; students can select their own avatar and background designs. BuzzMath can be used either in conjunction with a class (i.e. teacher led) or on its own, giving the possibility for students to use the app whether or not it is linked to their school. When the app is linked to a class, each student has a progress bar where they can see how far they have to go to complete the assignments, and they can save favorite courses to their ‘My Favorites’.
Although the math activities are very helpful for students practicing tricky topics, the Missions are where BuzzMath really stands out from the rest of the math apps. These missions are a math based quest linked to a storyline where students have to solve puzzles and math problems to complete the mission.
The Lost Talisman is a quest to search for a Middle Eastern talisman using numbers and operations puzzles. The mission is cleverly written to keep students engaged, and the puzzles are directly linked to previous practice questions. By putting a context around the math problems, students put more effort into their attempts at answering the problems.
But the app is not only useful for students; it also gives detailed reporting and organizational tools for teachers. Assignments can be organised into separate classes, and student completion of assignment is tracked with detailed reporting tools. The app can also be used in group situations, which can be particularly useful for lower-ability students and for promoting classroom collaboration. By using the app on the whiteboard it creates a buzz in the classroom that ordinary worksheets could not come close to.
The BuzzMath app is accompanied with a companion website where you can organize your classroom and students, and get access to more resources and BuzzLab missions. The app also has a handy feature for audio reading of text for students that may find audio narration easier to understand, and the app itself is whiteboard compatible.