How I Use It
This app follows a Montessori method of instruction, so it is very student-directed. I believe it works best when students are left to explore the features of the app (as the Note to Parents sections recommends) so that learners delve into as much or as little as they are ready to learn. The different areas of discovery are easily accessible for young learners and since there is no order to which they need to follow, it allows for the user to determine how they navigate through the app. Using it in small groups, students can use the sandbox to "draw" the numbers in the sand. Draw can be used in the same way but with different choices of color-pencils. The app could be used in a teacher-led lesson (but it really isn't designed for that) by projecting onto a Smart Board and allowing students to find the various items hiding under the shades in the "1,2,3 play" by taking turns at the board.
The app teaches and/or reinforces basic number skills. Emphasis is placed on allowing users to move freely as it is a Montessori-designed app. I wondered if Maria Montessori would like this method of instruction. Having virtual sandboxes to draw in rather than actual boxes of sand might not be what she envisioned. According to the American Montessori Society early learners "learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement." Some might say that using an iPad interferes with those sensory experiences. I'm not certain if apps geared toward the youngest of learners are really essential to their learning. I suppose it's an individual's opinion on the best means of teaching the youngest learners. I'd prefer preschoolers to be engaged in the real world rather than the online one. Having said that, this app does attempt to mimic real life as best it can. Ultimately, it's a decision the educator should make based on their students' needs.