Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Math Cats

Whimsical site sneaks math into practical activities

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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Grades
1-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Activities take a unique approach to learning and focus on free exploration.

Cons: Outdated user-submitted content and primitive graphics make the site feel like a bit of a dinosaur.

Bottom Line: Kids can learn to appreciate all the ways math connects to real life, and that math can be fun and entertaining.

Math Cats is best used to introduce math in non-traditional ways and for free exploration. However, the games can also align directly to specific units. Doing a unit on time? Use the time calculator to calculate exactly how long it is until each student’s next birthday or how long has passed since various historical events. A unit on place value? Use the birthday cake to play around with ones, tens, and hundreds. Use the scale to explore mass, weight, and multiplication, or the Egyptian cats fraction activity to teach about adding fractions, or about Egypt. There are also lots of ideas for crafts that would be fun class activities. Teachers can also follow the examples of other classrooms and make it a class or individual activity to design and submit a Math Cats craft, activity, or word problem.

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Math Cats offers unique math exploration tools and suggestions for math-related crafts and other offline activities. The teacher who created Math Cats uses cats to attract kids and add a touch of whimsy and entertainment (who doesn't like pictures of cats?). Content is divided into interactive math activities such as a coin flipper that graphs results and teaches about probability; online and offline crafts such as using shapes and geometry to make unique creations; exploration tools such as the time calculator, which kids can use to find their exact age in years, months, weeks, days, and seconds; math-related trivia like sports statistics and math terminology; and user-submitted content like kid-created word problems.

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Math Cats covers a lot of ground, including geometry, fractions, and multiplication. Most prominent, though, is its goal to inspire kids to enjoy working with math. For the most part, Math Cats succeeds in making math (and cats) an integral part of a wide variety of activities for which kids will surely find something that catches their fancy. See weather from around the world, compare the mass of cats, buildings, and planets, start a math club, make a number city, or practice using money and making change. Math Cats shines as an exploratory math playground, but it's less successful as a structured learning tool. Kids need to be directive of their own experience as there's limited difficulty leveling, little feedback, and no way to track progress. Math concepts are timeless, but the site is outdated, with the most recent user submission from 2009. This may be distracting or discouraging to kids who want to participate in the social, sharing opportunities the site offers. There's also a lot of text, so kids will need to be strong readers to do some of the activities.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Kids won't be impressed by fancy graphics or design, both of which are lacking. But fun ways to explore math on and offline are exciting on their own. And if math doesn’t draw kids in, there are plenty of cute cats to help.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Activities encourage open-ended exploration and inspire an interest in math by focusing on practical, entertaining application and creation. Game design is simple; with a few exceptions, games aren't responsive or leveled.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Games include instructions and some feedback, though some are still complicated. The free exploration philosophy should appeal to a wide range of kids and there are lots of resources for making math an exiting part of kids’ lives.


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