App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2021
Math Makers
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Math Makers

Charming leveled puzzler slyly mixes fun with logic, essential math

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Grades
K–4
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Math concepts are seamlessly integrated into the game play so that it never feels didactic.

Cons: With little to no help or explanations, kids may easily get frustrated when they can't solve a puzzle.

Bottom Line: These puzzles are a really fun approach to developing an intuitive sense of important math concepts, particularly for kids who feel that math is boring or inaccessible.

Though Math Makers is lots of fun and full of math and logic related concepts, it's all is so abstract that teachers will need to supplement to drive the learning home. Before playing, introduce concepts such as number, equivalencies, addition and subtraction, or fractions so that students are primed to think about the math. After playing, have students explain -- with words, drawings, or whatever method feels best -- what they did and why. What choices did they make? What did they need the balloon with those particular blocks? Was the order in which they did things important? Why or why not? Consider having students play in pairs so they can help each other through the really tough puzzles. And if you're sharing devices, be aware that students can freely access any level once they've all been unlocked. 

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Math Makers uses logic puzzles to abstractly explore math concepts such as place value, counting, comparison, equivalents, arithmetic, and fractions. After teachers create an account, they can set up to three individual player profiles and choose a separate age level for each. Depending on their age, students are placed at Small Numbers or Big Numbers to start. In either case, the first several levels teach students how to play using a hand icon to guide them. Each level contains a challenge to help clear the way for a llama to walk across the screen. Orange cubes explode blue cubes (and vice versa) and students must find a way to combine the right number of cubes so that none remain in the way. They do this by popping balloons holding different numbers of cubes, using ramps to help cubes go to the right place, running cubes through a "multiplication" machine, and other tricks and puzzles. As students continue, they earn new pets and silly hats for their llama. Math Makers also includes the puzzle set from Slice Fractions, a previous release from the same developer that uses a similar gamified set up to teach fractions. After a free trial, teachers need to pay for a subscription to continue accessing the games. The developer claims that they frequently release new content.

Math Makers does a great job of getting kids to interact with numbers in a way that feels fun and natural. Students can experiment with concepts such as quantity, addition and subtraction, and fractions in a low-stakes, high-fun setting. Because the math is embedded in the activities so well, and the rewards are simple and not a distraction (or based on consumerism), there's a real focus on building math skills by doing.

Though there's some basic visual guidance for what students need to do to play, there's no verbal instruction for the game or explanation of the underlying math concepts. Many puzzles require lots of abstract thinking and logical reasoning and come with little to no help when it just isn't clicking. Though it may be a plus for some that there are no instructions or explanations, other students may find the puzzles confusing and can end up feeling frustrated. Teachers will need to be on hand to provide strong scaffolding for students who don't do well with this very visual, very abstract approach. Overall, though, this could be a great choice to reinforce concepts in a unique way.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Logic puzzles have cutesy animals and the levels are downright addictive. Earning silly hats and extra pets provides some additional incentives to passing and re-playing levels.

Pedagogy

Students rely heavily on logic and problem solving to get through the levels, which increase in difficulty as students progress. Solving the puzzles involves reasoning with quantities, fractions, and other math concepts.

Support

A clear how-to introduces the first levels, but puzzles quickly get complicated and there's not much further guidance.


Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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