More Widgets

Once I got started designing the Math Widgets series I realized it was going to be a lot of fun.  The study of mathematics is an immensely broad topic and for kids who are really into math it is wonderful if a teacher can provide enrichment experiences that introduce new ideas and concepts that go beyond “what’s on the test”.  The Math Widgets series is a collection of tools with these kids and teachers in mind. Math Widgets III explores some special concepts in number theory.  For example, the Multibase Abacus piques one’s interest in alternative number systems.  What if we only had 8 fingers instead of 10?  Would we use a base 8 system?  With the Multibase Abacus students can investigate base 8 and any other base from 2 to 10. On the Multibase Abacus, numbers are represented by tapping beads to add or subtract values from the columns of various place value systems.  In the example below we are showing a base 5 system.  Starting on the right we have the ones place labeled with 50.  Moving to the left we have 5’s, 25’s, 125’s, 625’s etc.  Tapping one of the column labels results in a bubble showing the value of the place in base 10.  In the quiz mode students are challenged to represent randomly selected numbers in randomly selected bases.  Quite a few skills come into play when trying to answer the questions posed by the Multibase Abacus, including: estimation, addition, subtraction, multiplication and using exponents. Clock Arithmetic is another topic in math that is perfect for an enriched curriculum.  Whenever we divide two integers there is always a remainder (sometimes it’s zero).  Clock Arithmetic is a widget that encourages student’s to explore this concept which is known as Modular Arithmetic.  In programming languages there is a special operator used to signify the modulus function.  If a=7 and b=3 then in computer code a%b returns 1 since one is the remainder when 7 is divided by 3.  Sometimes the word ‘mod’ is used instead of the “%” symbol to describe this calculation, for example 15 mod 12 is equal to 3.  In the example below, tapping the 2 is the correct response. Once in a while, but rarely, you might find a newspaper article about a mathematician solving a problem or finding a proof that has been elusive for hundreds of years.  For example, the conjecture  that no three positive integers ab, and c satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than 2. The cases n = 1 and n = 2 have been known to have infinitely many solutions since antiquity.  First conjectured by Pierre de Fermat in 1637, this theorem had been the focus of study by mathematician for centuries and was finally proven in 1995 by Andrew Wiles.  Goldbach’s Conjecture has never been proven. It was first posed in a letter from Goldbach to Euler in 1742.  The conjecture posits that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes.  Use the Goldbach’s Conjecture widget to explore this idea by finding the primes whose sum is the given even numbers. The Hexagon Arithmetic Widget is a six number system that uses emojis as the symbols.  Counting moves in a clockwise direction around the hexagon.  The object is to complete the addition table using logic to figure out the pattern. Math Widgets I, II and III are offered exclusively by the iTunes App Store and sell for \$1.99 each.  Educational discounts are available for schools.  Please visit our website for more information about these and other apps for education.

Math Widgets & Math Widgets II

There are two definitions for the term widget.  First, a widget is a small gadget or mechanical device that performs a useful function. In this context, the term is often applied to a device where the actual name is unknown or unspecified.  Second, a widget is an application, or component of an interface, that enables a user to do something special, for example perform a useful function or access special information.  Math Widgets fit both definitions.  The Math Widgets apps are collections of math tools that provide opportunities to explore a variety of important math concepts.  Some of the concepts extend the K-8 math curriculum laterally and therefore these apps are particularly useful for teachers who are looking to provide enrichment.

Let’s take a look and the first Math Widgets app.  This app is available for both iPad and Apple TV and includes four widgets: Slide Rule, Fraction Action, Integers and Coordinate Grid. With the advent of calculators and computers, obviously the need for a slide rule has diminished, if not, virtually vanished, but what fun for kids to learn the basic idea of a slide rule by manipulating a virtual slide rule on their iPad or Apple TV.  In addition to representing the meaning of two fundamental math concepts: adding and subtracting,  the slide rule gives teachers an opportunity to discuss some of other historical tools used to help people do math for example the abacus or Napier’s Bones.  (See Abacus Deluxe and Napier’s Bones) The operation of the Slide Rule widget is straightforward. The widget presents a problem in the middle of the screen and challenges the student to show the answer using the slide rule.  Addition and subtraction problems are presented. The Integers widget uses a number line to help students understand operations with positive and negative numbers.  A problem is presented and the student is challenged to slide the marker to show the answer.  When slid in a positive direction a blue bar appears on the number line.  A red bar is used to show movement in the negative direction.  By using this app student will develop a better understanding of basic operations with integers. Fraction Action provides an interactive widget for learning about equivalent fractions.  A fraction is randomly selected and displayed as a numerator over a denominator. It is also shown as parts of a circle.  The challenge for the student is to move the indicator along the fraction ruler to select the equivalent fraction. The Coordinate Grid widget is designed to help students learn to locate points on a standard Cartesian plane.  The x and y axes and the quadrants are labelled.  The student is given a coordinate pair and is challenged to find the corresponding point on grid by moving a slider.

The first Math Widgets app seemed so useful that I thought I would do another one so I developed Math Widgets II. Math Widgets II has 4 widgets:  Multibase Chart, Arrow Math, Tinker Totals and Peg Puzzle Party.  While studying number systems other than Base 10 might not be a critical part of the standard elementary curriculum, it is a fun enrichment idea for teachers who are looking to extend the curriculum for certain students. Multibase Chart provides an interesting experience in representing numbers using different bases. In this example the computer has challenged the student to represent 19 in Base 8.  The red slider has be moved to isolate all the possible two digit numbers in Base 8.  Since 2 x 8 + 3 = 19, the correct answer is 23.   The correct answer is located at column D, row C.  Tapping this cell results in a positive reinforcement message and increase in score. Success in mathematics and many other areas of study involves the skill of being able to follow a specific set of instructions.  Arrow Math provides an opportunity to practice two skills, the ability to carefully follow a set of instructions and also the meaning of an inverse operation.  Arrow Math provides teachers with a visual way to talk about inverse operations which are important in the study of mathematics.  When using this widget ask students questions such as ‘What is the inverse of moving to the right?’ or ‘What is the inverse of moving down and left?’. The Tinker Totals widget creates number puzzles where the object is to arrange number given into the cells of a pattern so that the numbers along each line add to the same sum. Peg Puzzle Party is a logical thinking puzzle where the challenge is to end up with the least number of pegs on the board.  A move consist of pick a peg and jumping over another peg to land in an open space.  When a peg is selected the available moves are highlighted in green.  Peg Puzzle Party is a fun way to exercise your brain and can be used to help students develop strategic thinking skills.