Review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2016
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Marble Math Lite: Multiplication

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Times table practice inside a marble maze doesn't promote learning

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Health & Wellness

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: A nicely designed marble-maze game, with a few twists that will delight young players, and it's certainly more exciting than flash cards.

Cons: Promotes memorization of small-digit multiplication, not intuition of relationships and patterns; plus you can play without doing any math.

Bottom Line: Don't rely on it as a primary multiplication-teaching tool, but if you need something to help kids with quick recall, it's not the worst option.

It's probably not a great idea to use Marble Math Lite: Multiplication as a core part of your instruction or practice for multiplication, but the game is likely OK as supplemental practice once you've already worked to build up your students' intuitive sense of patterns and relationships between integer multiples. Keep it around for down time between lessons or for kids who just need to play with something productive. It's also not the worst way to familiarize kids with multiple-choice-style problems; it's surely more fun than a bunch of worksheets.

Be careful about using it before those intuitive links are built, though -- it can be a bit tougher to get kids interested in learning why 3 times 5 is 15 once they've already accepted that it's simply factually true. Marble Math Lite: Multiplication is good refresher practice only; it's not a great fit for instruction or remediation.

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Marble Math Lite: Multiplication is a math-infused version of the classic tilt-to-move marble math game. Players swipe the screen or tilt their tablet to steer a marble through a maze filled with obstacles and power-ups to collect numbers and complete a given multiplication problem. When they find the right number or numbers, a goal point appears, and they must steer their marble to that point to move on to another maze. There are several unlockable marbles, including sports-themed options. If a player gets stuck on a particular map, they can request to see the correct solution and move on.

Parents or teachers can adjust the settings to include any subset of multiples from 1 to 12, change the tilt-to-move controls to swipe-to-move, turn music and sound effects on or off, and toggle the obstacles and power-ups. A leaderboard tracks the user's high scores.

If you take away the marble maze part of the game, Marble Math Lite: Multiplication is just a deck of multiple-choice times table flash cards. Flash cards aren't the best way to teach or practice multiplication, as they promote a "banking" approach to math, where memorization of facts for quick recall is the end goal. This doesn't tend to lead to lasting learning with useful links to future math skills such as algebra and exponents.

Further, since there's a fixed set of options for each level, there's little incentive to build strong recall skills, even as flash cards might do. At best, this is decent standardized test practice, but there are even better options for that out there. The game could be improved by giving levels multiple possible solutions, offering a larger quantity of numbers on each maze, or providing multistep multiplication problems.

Overall Rating

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

A nicely designed maze-style game, with built-in times table flash card practice. It's about as engaging as a mash-up of these can be -- younger kids might be hooked, while older users will get bored quickly.

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

Recall practice isn't the best way to build multiplication intuition, so the learning isn't deep. It does switch up the order of problems from the usual "A x B = ?" style, which builds some algebraic reasoning skills.

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

There's nice built-in help for gameplay, but it requires lots of reading -- not great for younger players. There's no help for multiplication, only the option to reveal the correct answer, which doesn't promote learning.

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