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Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013

Playful Minds: Math (5-8 years old)

Travel to a tropical island where math games rule

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Critical Thinking
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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1 video | 5 images

Pros: The built-in mini-lessons reinforce classroom teaching in an fun, accessible format.

Cons: Lack of specific integration for teachers to monitor a whole class complicates classroom use.

Bottom Line: Excellent math practice with motivating rewards and progress tracking that kids, parents, and teachers will all appreciate.

The setup is generally geared for home use, with family accounts for up to five kids and progress reports for parents; the mini-lessons help reinforce classroom lessons and give parents an explanation of how the concept is taught. You could adapt the educational app for use in class, setting up multiple devices for kids, with five students taking turns sharing an iPad.

At first play, kids customize their avatar and can later earn more clothes or accessories for it. They earn points for playing daily and based on their scores. Kids can also play against other kids, each at their own skill level, in the multiplayer mini-games.

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Editor's Note: Playful Minds Math was removed from the app store in 2014 and is no longer available for download.

Playful Minds Math is a fun and educationally sound game that teaches kids grade-appropriate (and Common Core-aligned!) math skills. Set on a colorful tropical island, it also includes progress reports for parents or teachers to stay on top of what kids are working on or struggling with.

As they travel through the island, kids complete different math tasks to unlock prizes and other islands. Kindergarten tasks include counting, patterns, size comparisons, matching, number order, and adding one more. First-grade tasks include counting, graphing, more/less, and larger/smaller. Second-grade tasks include addition, subtraction, patterns, and telling time, and the app continues to progress to the higher grades. Each new skill includes a short instruction on the concept, and kids can tap the light bulb at any time to repeat the lesson. Level options are easy, normal, hard, and very hard.

The mini-lessons and explanations or hints are pedagogically sound, and you could even choose to work through some levels with whole-class or small-group direct instruction. The range of grade-level skills and the breadth of levels –- four ranging from easy to very hard -– make the app adaptable for the range of abilities within a diverse classroom. Even within the games, options for customization abound. For example, in two-digit math problems in the second-grade mode, kids can choose Multi-Answer, working through the problem with the ones first, then the tens; or Instant Answer, where they enter the complete answer immediately.

Standouts: The animated teachers –- animals on the different islands –- are very encouraging and helpful. Not so great: Rewards give students incentives to continue playing, but kids may be distracted by tempting in-app purchases.

Overall Rating

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

The island adventure draws kids in, and the funny animated animal teachers and quest for points and prizes will keep them coming back.

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

Highly customizable levels meet kids where they are in their level of ability. Hints and mini-lessons, offered when kids are struggling with a problem, reinforce instruction.

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

Data tracking is amazing and helpful for parents monitoring at-home practice.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 2 reviews) (2 reviews)
Featured review by
Kim P. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
North Fairview Elementary School
Topeka, United States
Colorful interactive math pratice that provides rewards and goals
"Great math learning and practice for young kids. Problems appear on the screen while they are read aloud by a fun, friendly voice. Delightful music in the background adds to the entertaining atmosphere of this app. ...
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