Review by Pamela Brittain, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2019

Graspable Math

Handy way to ditch the pen and paper when solving algebra equations

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
N/A
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.
6–12
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Pros: Innovative way to interact directly with equations; integrations with GeoGebra allow for visualizing the algebra/geometry connection.

Cons: A few glitches with the interface; highly reliant on teacher-created content.

Bottom Line: Students literally grab onto algebra equations and move and shake them up, investigating what happens every step of the way.

Graspable Math requires a lot of teacher input to be truly useful; the platform itself doesn't provide any questions built into it outside of the From Here to There game, which is more of a tutorial of what the platform can do. Instead, it allows students to input their own equations and manipulate them to find solutions -- and to see how different combinations could potentially affect the outcome. There's a community of teacher-created worksheets available on the site, which are good but limited (many are also available in languages other than English). 

However, teachers can create and share (with a Google account) worksheets for their students with text explanations and definitions, equations to be solved, and even embedded YouTube videos. This could be great for online courses or at-home instruction or practice. The GeoGebra integrations also expand the context of the lessons to include both 2D and 3D representations of the equations. 

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Graspable Math allows students to interact directly with algebra equations in an innovative way. By learning just a few easy gestures, students can drag elements of an equation from one place to another, combine, simplify, or expand variables, and create step-by-step solutions to various questions. It's fairly intuitive to operate, with a clean, simple interface. Students don't need an account to use the platform (which is free and browser-based), but they can use their Google login to save, load, and share workspaces with teachers or other classmates. 

Graspable Math doesn't have many bells and whistles; it's very focused on solving and manipulating equations. But at the time of this review, there were a few glitches in the provided tutorial, which could be a bit confusing at first. And the included game, which seems to work only on a Chrome browser, is really more of a tutorial itself than an actual game. Its repetitive early levels may cause frustration (especially with older students). Also, the "shake a variable" option to open up the equation editor was temperamental at times (especially when using a trackpad).

Graspable Math is a good tool for allowing students to explore assigned questions as well as different methods of distribution, expansion, simplification, and other equation manipulations. It's integrated with GeoGebra, allowing students to manipulate both equations and their associated geometric representations, reinforcing the connection between these two fields of math. It also has a handy ability to allow students to track a specific variable from one step to the next, meaning students can see where various elements of the equation end up from start to finish and recognize (and catch) errors early on.

The best part is that Graspable Math doesn't actually solve the equation for the students (though there are some tools that simplify various steps or convert from one equation format to another -- e.g., the quadratic equation). This means that students can't simply plug an equation into it and get the answer out -- they still have to work for it.

Overall Rating

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

Students get to grab on to equations and move (and shake) them around. Manipulating equations in this way is more engaging than with traditional pen and paper.

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

Students can explore equations step by step to understand the importance of order and how different methods may produce different answers. Significant teacher input is required for content and corrections. 

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

The tutorials are informative (if a little glitchy), and there are a number of premade worksheets to start. The associated game is also a helpful tutorial on how to manipulate the equations.


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