Common Sense Review
Updated April 2016

Reflex: Math Fact Fluency

Addictive and adaptive games to help kids memorize math facts
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Students have a choice of games to play to build their math fluency.
  • Prior to playing any games, students learn a math rule and review it with practice and feedback.
  • In Coach Penny's Picture Puzzle, students answer math facts.
  • In Ninja to the Stars, students solve math facts to guide their ninja ever higher.
  • The Reflex Dashboard allows teachers to create classes, add students, and monitor student progress.
Eye-catching graphics, simple gameplay, and low cognitive threshold will hook kids right away, plus point systems might keep some kids playing.
Only helps with memorization and quick recall, not pattern recognition, grouping, or deep understanding of numerical relationships.
Bottom Line
If worksheets are too dull but you need the same kind of skill-practice question sets, this is certainly a more engaging format.
Galen McQuillen
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Characters in precarious situations make kids want to solve problems quickly to reach their goals. Goofy accents and bright colors make the games more cartoon than worksheet (though the actual math is about the same).

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

The games promote a purely memorization-based approach, with "fact families" used as mnemonics rather than pattern-based deep understanding tools. They are effective at getting students through tons of homogenous problems.

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

Available in English, Spanish, and French. Friendly characters walk students through the process and provide some feedback. The teacher dashboard and Progress Tree allow teachers and students to view fluency gained.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Reflex is best used in situations where students already have strong conceptual understanding of operations, number patterns, and grouping strategies but could use a bit of extra support on quick recall (primarily for high-stakes testing purposes). It should not be any part of regular classroom practice, reserved instead for extra support.

Reflex is most effective if used regularly for shorter periods of time (15 minutes). Students should end the game wanting more. This will keep kids from getting bored and allow them to memorize facts more quickly. Kids can work on Reflex at home or in school. They can track their growth using the Progress Tree, and parents and teachers can view individual reports showing usage and fluency gained. The audio and sound effects could be distracting to others, so be sure students have headphones.

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What's It Like?

Reflex: Math Fact Fluency teaches math facts for addition and subtraction for numbers 0-10 and multiplication and division for numbers 0-12. It's best for students who already understand basic math operations and need practice to improve speed and accuracy.

A character named Crabby walks students through the setup. Students then answer a set of questions to determine their starting fluency. They can choose from a selection of games appropriate for their level. Each game starts with Coach Penny giving them some rules such as "Subtracting a number from itself equals 0." Students practice that rule, and once they demonstrate understanding, they get to play the game to build their speed. As they progress, they earn tokens to redeem for online prizes.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Students memorize more easily by learning "fact families," in which they focus on a set of facts for a group of numbers. Subtraction and addition are paired and taught together, as are multiplication and division. This strategy does some scaffolding toward inverse operations. Reflex is lightly adaptive, removing the facts students already know as they play, which may keep them challenged but promotes forgetting facts after assessment. For extra support, Coach Penny offers some helpful tutorials.

That said, the actual content is no more complicated or authentic than long worksheets of numbers and single operations. Also, the game structure may do more harm than good, replacing any intrinsic motivation for learning math relationships with blindly churning through problems to accrue enough points for that next reward in the virtual shop. 

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