Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013
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Mystery Math Town

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Clever story line pulls kids in as they work to solve problems

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1–6
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Players solve problems in reverse, so kids get a deeper understanding of the mechanics of math.

Cons: Lack of progress tracking data makes it difficult to identify mastery of concepts or areas for improvement.

Bottom Line: Mystery Math Town poses challenging exercises in a fun, engaging way.

Mystery Math Town offers unlimited user profiles, which makes it ideal for use even on a shared device. Work with students to customize their profile -- kids will surely want to set up their own avatar, but you may want to set the appropriate number ranges and skills to test. Progress within each user's play will be saved. Mystery Math Town is challenging for kids, and can be a fun option for daily math skills practice. It's just lacking progress reports for students, parents, or teachers.

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Kids are on a mission to help find fireflies that have been trapped in jars and hidden in houses throughout Mystery Math Town. To find the fireflies, they navigate their way through different houses in the town, collecting numbers as they rescue the fireflies. They'll need the numbers because to move from room to room, through doors, out windows, or up and down stairs, they'll have to solve reverse math problems by providing the numbers to get to the given answer (like choosing between 1, 2, 5, 8, and 9 to choose numbers that add up to 10.) Finding the fireflies in one house unlocks the next house, where the maze-like rooms get trickier and the math problems do, too. In some houses, kids can also collect gold coins to be used to buy portraits for their gallery. Those portraits have lots to say, too, about each other, themselves, and the town. Kids create their own avatar -- though only one skin tone is available -- and multiple users can create profiles on the same device. They can customize their level of math challenge, too.

Mystery Math Town engages kids with a mysterious mood and snarky humor and gives them a mission -- to save the fireflies. Kids must solve problems in order to be able to move throughout the house. Since this is a mystery genre, solving problems fits into the story line and doesn't feel tacked on to get some math in. Kids use numbers they've gathered throughout the rooms of the house to complete the equation. As the game progresses, the problems get more challenging, and kids may find that they don't have the numbers they need to complete their equation. They'll just have to keep looking other places. Kids are working with logic and problem-solving as they navigate through the houses.

Kids will get a few laughs from the talking portraits and may enjoy interacting with some of the elements in the rooms, like a ringing telephone or ticking clock. 

Overall Rating

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

Mystery Math Town draws kids in with zany characters, a mysterious story, and fun, interactive graphics. 

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

The story line and characters here engage kids and give them a purpose -- to save the fireflies. In the math problems, kids see the solution and must create the problem themselves, adding a level of challenge.

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

Kids can use "lifelines" if they want to skip a problem. The tutorial on the start page includes detailed written instructions and some helpful hints. Good customization options let you tailor gameplay to a kid's skill level.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Donald P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Awesome for those that don't like math
While I don't teach elementary math, I do have this app for my daughter who is going into first grade, has some special needs, and HATES math. However, she LOVES this app. She plays it without being asked to, and asks to be able to play it! What better recommendation can you get than from a 6 year old who hates math but loves this app? The concept is simple. You have to work your way through a series of houses trying to rescue baby fireflies that have been trapped in jars. In each room you can pick up numbers and in order to move to the next room you have to solve a problem using your number bank. In later rooms you may not be given the numbers in the actual room, but be required to use numbers that you had picked up earlier.
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