Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2012
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Algebra Touch

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Nice twist to learn equation steps, not answers

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Students get encouraging words at each step.

Cons: You can't track how students are progressing, or if they're progressing at all.

Bottom Line: Algebra Touch breaks equations down into steps and describes them with such basic language that math-challenged students should improve.

Using Algebra Touch on their own, students should learn the basic steps of algebraic equations. But the app can also reinforce skills such as following visual directions, applying information students have learned in class, and identifying strengths and weaknesses in their understanding of algebra subtopics. One bonus is that teachers can use the app as an instructional tool in lessons for the entire class via AppleTV. A downside is that you can't track students' progress, so unless you're watching them work through the lessons, you can't tell who's catching on and who might need more help.

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For students new to algebra, or any teen struggling to understand the concept, Algebra Touch teaches the basics step by step. They'll learn addition, variables, basic equations, negatives, and more, with a total of 20 topics.

Most lessons build on each other, and many appear to assume students know little to nothing about what's being presented, which is helpful: Each step is explained in the simplest of terms. Overall, Algebra Touch is an innovative way for students to practice algebra and build concepts, and a remarkably stress-free way to learn.

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First, students choose a lesson. Then, a basic problem related to that lesson appears with a written explanation. Along with the written explanation comes an instruction ("Tap the +") telling kids what to do to make the answer appear. Kids then start the lesson, but they aren't expected to enter the final answer. Rather, they tap the steps involved, and then the app gives the answer. Talk about stress-free! At every step kids hear, "Very good!", "Wonderful!", or "Good job!" If they tap incorrectly, the image simply wiggles, encouraging them to try again. When they choose correctly, the next step appears, and finally kids arrive at the answer.

Lessons can be simple. In one addition lesson, kids drag and rearrange single-variable polynomials so like terms are together for easier adding. Practice problems -- which students can save -- are built into the lessons, too, and users can add more.

We might suggest more detailed instruction for new or pre-algebra students, as well as more complex levels for advanced students, but for most teens, this should help them improve understanding and provide that unicorn in math: positive reinforcement.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

In this positive, low-stress algebra intro, kids get encouraging words at each step of an equation and access problems in many ways. The screen only wiggles at wrong answers, so kids are encouraged to try again. 

 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Critical-thinking skills will help kids clarify what's happening and reflect on how each step will, or won't, lead to the right answer.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The user interface lists lessons in order of difficulty and provides clear direction. It's so well-organized, you don't need a tutorial.


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

5
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Featured review by
Elisabeth A. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Cosumnes River Elementary School
Sloughhouse, CA
4
Algebra concepts made easy.

Algebra Touch remains one of my favorite applications. I really like the kinesthetic component of dragging numbers across the screen and clicking on operators to decompose or combine numbers. Problems can be solved very quickly, but the student should still practice the concept on paper, demonstrating a clear understanding of the step-by-step process. It's possible for a student to advance through more difficult problems simply by dragging a number to any location that triggers a partial or complete solution. Asking students to explain their approach to solving the algebra problem presented on the screen would help the teacher identify misunderstandings: students should be monitored.

Students can scroll through the list of topics for continued review or create their own problems to further test their skills.

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