App review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015
Order Of Operations By IDevBooks
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Order of Operations by iDevBooks

No-frills arithmetic tool great for practice, lacks progress tracking system

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
3–6
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Kids solve multi-step arithmetic problems with visuals of each step, and they can access help at any time.

Cons: Kids can't score their results or track their learning progress.

Bottom Line: A flexible, Common Core-aligned practice tool for kids with a range of abilities, but look elsewhere for tools that monitor progress.

Use Order of Operations by iDev Books in the classroom for targeted practice. Take some time to adjust the settings according to kids' skill levels. If you have enough devices, kids should practice independently. Alternatively, they can share devices and take turns after evaluating a given number of expressions. Circulate as students practice so you can get a sense of their progress. Advanced students can create and save their own expressions and have partners evaluate them.

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In this cleanly designed app, there are two options on the main screen: Explore the Rules and Evaluate Expressions. When kids choose Explore the Rules, they can tap on mathematical symbols to read the rules for following the order of operations when evaluating expressions. Kids can also tap on Help to read about the "Boss Triangle," which summarizes all of the rules. Operations are displayed in a triangle to highlight their importance, with exponents at the top of the triangle and addition and subtraction at the bottom. When kids choose the Evaluate Expressions option from the main screen, they are given expressions with multiple operations to evaluate. Kids tap on the part of the expression they want to solve first. For example, in the expression (2 + 5) – 3 + 8, kids would tap on the addition symbol inside the parentheses since this follows the rules for the order of operations. A selection of values appears at the bottom of the screen, and kids select the correct value for this part of the expression. So, in the example (2 + 5) – 3 + 8, kids would select 7 to solve the first step. They continue until the expression has been completely evaluated. If kids tap on the incorrect part of the expression, feedback appears to guide them in the right direction. In Settings, users can customize problems with options such as maximum numbers in each expression, allow negative numbers, allow decimals, allow exponents, and more. Users can also enter and save their own problems.

Order of Operations by iDev Books is an excellent tool for targeted practice. And kids are doing more than just memorizing concepts: Comprehension is strongly supported by the visual display of each step as kids evaluate expressions. Immediate hints guide kids who struggle to remember and follow the rules, and the options to set varying levels of difficulty make it easy for kids with varying abilities to use the tool. A program for scoring results and tracking progress would boost the learning potential and make this an even more valuable classroom tool.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Kids will likely prefer evaluating expressions using this interactive tool over the traditional paper-and-pencil method. Some more interesting graphics and positive reinforcement could increase engagement.

Pedagogy

Expressions are broken down visually into steps to help kids fully understand how to apply the order of operations. Forcing kids to manually enter answers could avoid low-consequence "guessing."

Support

An entire screen is dedicated to reviewing concepts, and kids can easily access help and hints. Unfortunately, there's no way to score results or track progress.


Common Sense reviewer
Debbie Gorrell Educator

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