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App review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
StraightAce

StraightAce

Pricey middle school math app suffers from variety of flaws

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
6–8 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.
Subjects & Skills
Math, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Comprehensive curriculum, good visuals and organization, parental involvement baked-in.

Cons: Disappointing formatting, wordiness, confusing language, and missing explanations.

Bottom Line: StraightAce can offer middle schoolers good practice at home, but it’s pricey and has some rough edges.

The subscription-based program is mostly designed for parents and kids and doesn't include a teacher dashboard for managing students and monitoring their progress. It does allow kids to practice at home with a Common Core-aligned program, though, and you can encourage parents to take an active role in their kids’ math progress by following along on the website.

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Editor's Note: StraightAce has closed and is no longer available.

StraightAce is an app offering a traditional middle school math curriculum with a modern wrapper. Kids log in and then choose from three grades and any of hundreds of topics. They'll then elect to study a lesson or launch right into a quiz with about 10 questions each. Press buttons for a hint, virtual scratch paper, or to send a message to a parent via the website. If kids select an incorrect answer, an unhappy face spins into view along with a (sometimes empty) explanation field, the answer, total percentage of students who got it right, and a button to see the question again.

Hundreds of topics focus on sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade concepts such as ratio, fractions, negative numbers, geometry, representing data, square roots, irrational numbers, and exponents. The StraightAce Link website allows parents to see kids' topics completed, number of questions answered, total time spent, lessons reviewed, and overall success.

Menus and graphics are crisp, and navigation is mostly intuitive. Earned coins, a three-star system, and positive messages will encourage kids to keep trying here.

Unfortunately, the lessons, questions, and explanations suffer from wordiness, occasional ambiguous descriptions, and technical, textbook-like language, not to mention formatting problems like missing line breaks and varying font sizes. Chronically low global success percentages displayed after every question might also be discouraging; if no one's getting the answer right, maybe the questions aren't so great.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Graphics are solid, but the extensive menus could use a third layer or tighter formatting, and the avatars are a bit weak. Encouraging phrases, stars, and coins will keep some kids interested.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Quizzes are responsive, offering immediate access to the correct answer, occasional explanations, original lesson, and view of question when missed, allowing for some depth of learning.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Access to performance data on the website boosts parental connection. Kids can send parents messages to ask for help. Overall accessibility is lowered dramatically by the traditional presentation.


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