Review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2016
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Number Line, by the Math Learning Center

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Virtual number line is clean and pretty but not terribly useful

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Pre-K-6
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Organizes and presents number-line exercises in a very clear, distinct way with nice colors, annotations, and equation entry tools.

Cons: It's hard to think of where it would work better than old-fashioned hand-drawn number lines.

Bottom Line: If you need a cleaner way to show number lines or you like the app's number-hiding tool, this could be useful. For most, it's probably not necessary.

Number Line would be a nice tool for teachers who need a premade number line for their lessons or who need to switch between different intervals very quickly. The clear, clean design is great for working with kids with learning difficulties or visual impairments or with those for whom hand-drawn versions might be confusing for any reason. The option to hide numbers until tapped is great for counting practice or for quick estimation exercises (make a guess, then touch to see if you're right!), while the option to change intervals on the fly is good for illustrating scale properties.

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Number Line is exactly what it sounds like: a virtual version of a number line. Users can add colored bars (with dashed directional arcs) to an integer number line in the center of the screen and drag to change their length, reposition them, or change their direction (from positive to negative). Whole numbers can be changed to fractions or decimals, and the number line can be highly customized, with controls for the intervals, a tick-mark display, a label display, and spacing. There's an option to cover up all the numbers until they're tapped or to add custom tick marks at arbitrary points. The bars themselves can be automatically numbered by length, blank, or have a fill-in-the-blank field. 

A set of annotation tools lets users write notes with a finger or stylus or add formatted equations and expressions. Bars can be deleted or duplicated with a single tap, and entire groups of bars can be selected by dragging a path around them. 

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Number lines are useful for a great many things in math, and they're an exceptional way to get an intuitive, emotional understanding of numbers and operations, all the way from kindergarten through advanced postsecondary study. 

The big issue, however, is that a hand-drawn number line is better for learning than any static, unanimated digital version in so many ways. The tactile sensations of creating the line, counting by steps, moving a finger or pen backward and forward, and shading regions of the line are what solidify the connection between abstract numerical concepts and the concrete world. When everything's virtual and premade, it's all still abstract. 

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Overall Rating

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

This digital number line is nicely designed, with a minimalist look and easy-to-use controls. Intuitive colors and dashed directional arcs give it one up on hand-drawn number lines, but it would be tough to describe the overall experience as fun.

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

Number lines are a fantastic way to represent everything from addition to inequalities to intervals of concavity, and this is a nice, clean way to depict them. Is it better for learning than the hand-drawn version? Probably not much.

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 a nice tutorial as well as links to the developer's (paid) curriculum, but you should find no shortage of number-line lessons elsewhere. For kids, there's no help for math concepts, so you'll need to provide that somehow.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Susan K. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Great Tool for Illustrating Math Strategies

Number Line by Math Learning Center is a very useful teaching tool. It works well in conjunction with student instruction in the use of number lines as a tool for addition, subtraction, or multiplication. I have found it to be helpful for parents, many of whom had ever used number lines as a tool for problem-solving, for them to understand student lessons and homework. Rather than drawing number lines on paper, Number Line by Math Learning Center provides a different, engaging way for students to use number lines to illustrate their math strategies.

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