Review by Jason Shiroff, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013

Math Apprentice

A fun, clever way to learn how math is used in the real world

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Grades
5-10 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: There are lots of opportunities for kids to be challenged and explore real-world math.

Cons: The site's potential is limited by the absence of a teacher dashboard as well as help offerings for emerging mathematicians.

Bottom Line: It's an engaging exploration for students who already have the math and inquiry skills needed to understand the concepts on the site.

Teachers can use Math Apprentice in several ways. Students can use it as an open-ended exploration of different math-related careers. They'll be exposed to new math concepts and have fun visiting the virtual businesses. Teachers might also use this approach to preview concepts in upcoming units, to help students visualize real-world applications for what they're learning.

A more strategic approach might involve matching students' current math skills with specific businesses on the site. For example, once students have a strong understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem, have them visit the video game studio to help cement their understanding in an engaging way. It's important to have students reflect on their experiences after visiting Math Apprentice, as the site doesn't give teachers feedback on what their students are learning.

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Math Apprentice introduces students to real-world math concepts used by people working in a variety of careers. Students pick one of three avatars and travel through a virtual town with eight businesses. As they visit each business, students learn about the math involved there. The businesses include a bakery, bike shop, animation studio, video game studio, and a space rover design center, among others. Each business has kids solve unique problems using built-in math tools.

A wide range of math concepts are covered, including the Pythagorean Theorem, ratios and proportions, and graphing the sine and cosine functions. Additionally, students can explore a different part of the site to learn about various math-intensive careers, from artist to amusement park designer.

Standout Activities: 

  • The Sweet Treat Cafe provides interactive multi-step word problems using graphing, fractions, and decimal operations to maximize the profit in the Cafe.
  • Trigon Studios is a movie studio where students move animated characters using the sine and cosine functions, similar to the way video games are created.
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As an inquiry-based approach to teaching mathematics, Math Apprentice is great for helping students connect what they're learning in school with the math done by professionals. The simulations are high-quality and engaging, and provide students with excellent opportunities for open-ended learning.

There are a few things that could make this site even better for both teachers and students. A learning dashboard would be helpful -- a place where teachers and students could view progress, assign tasks, and give/get feedback. Better Common Core standards alignment, with listings, would also be a big plus for teachers looking to connect the site to specific learning goals. Last, while the exploratory nature of the site is key, a user guide outlining site navigation would save time and help students develop more understanding from their experiences.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

It's easy to get drawn into the virtual businesses' math simulations. They're both engaging and complex -- although, in the latter case, sometimes overly so. The robotic-sounding audio tracks may turn off some students. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Complex math concepts are introduced and modeled on the site. Students with more advanced math skills can take their thinking to a higher level. However, the site doesn't do much to teach more novice learners.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

Each experience comes with written help. However, the directions are often challenging to read and follow. There isn't a way to track students' overall progress on the site.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jason Shiroff Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Susan W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
4
My students were completely engaged in this cleaver math program

This became another one of my GOTO applications for my students. I think it is clever, engaging, and addictive. Everything a teacher would like to see in an online math program. I highly recommend this website.

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