# Fraction Builder

I submitted Fraction Builder to iTunes yesterday and it was approved in less than an hour!  It is so amazing to me what great service Apple offers to developers.  I certainly appreciate the way that the App Store provides access to my work to students and teachers all over the world.

In most of my math apps I try to make them icon-based so that language skills are not critical for working with concepts.  Fraction Builder has a series of icons across the top of the screen.  Tapping each icon results in a specific function.

For example, tapping the red dice generates a random fraction.  Denominators range from 1 to 12.  Once the denominator is set, numerators can be any number that results in a proper fraction.

When the question mark is tapped, a question is generated and displayed on a moveable note.  To answer the question students drag number tiles to make the fraction.  Usually it is best to start with the denominator.  If using this app in a classroom, the teacher should explain that the denominator represents the number of equal parts.  For this example, the student would first slide the three tile to the denominator position.  Next, the student should slide a one to the numerator position.  Once the numerator and denominator have been properly set, the students should tap the check mark.  When this icon is tapped the app compares the students answer to the correct answer for the question.

A scoreboard displays student progress as they work with the app.  It shows the topic, number of questions attempted and the percent correct.  Quiz questions are based on three main topic areas:

• Naming Fractions

• Equivalent Fractions

• Comparing Fractions

Various other functions are performed when other icons are tapped.  This chart explains the other functions.

I hope that teachers will let me know if they are interested in evaluating this app for use at their school.   I have a limited number of download codes for FREE evaluation copies of this app.   For some students learning about fractions is difficult.  It is my hope that this colorful interactive app will help them in their journey to master fraction concepts.

# Save the Galaxy!

I guess I am on a monsters kick lately.  My latest strategy game involves monsters that have invaded the galaxy.  Your job is to use logical thinking skills to save the galaxy!

To solve the puzzle the player must swipe in the direction that they wish the monster to move.  The app is available for both iOS and Apple TV.  On an iPad the player swipes the screen to specify the direction.  If you are playing on an Apple TV either the Siri remote or a bluetooth compatible game controller can be used.

The galaxy is divided into 20 sectors so there are 20 puzzles in the app.  The app has a 3-D look to it and animation adds to the effect that you are traveling through space.  As you might of guessed I am a StarTrek fan doing an app with a space theme was fun for me.

I hope you enjoy playing Space Monsters! Save the Galaxy. A limited number of free promotional codes are available by request.  The app is offered exclusively by the iTunes App Store and sells for \$0.99.  Please visit our website for more information about this and other apps for education.

# Line Design (a.k.a. String Art)

In general, one of my goals in designing the Hands-On Math apps was to create ways to simulate learning experiences that students would have if using actual manipulatives.  Simulated manipulatives can offer additional learning opportunities.

Special features, in the Line Design app, take the learning opportunities beyond what can be down with physical manipulates.  For example, a grid with the x and y axes labelled can be added to the image.

Line Design can be used for exploring the relationship between geometry and art.  In addition to calling line designs, string art, sometimes it is referred to as aesthenometry, Using the term, aesthenometry, refers more to the aesthetic beauty of the designs.

It is always fun for students to use boards, nails and various colors of embroidery thread to make string artworks to hang on their wall.  The process involves lots of careful planning, measuring and some materials (boards, nails and string).  The Line Design app can be used to plan the project and to provide help in choosing the colors and design patterns to be used.

Personally my favorite pattern to use for instructional purposes is the circle.  When the circle design is selected a slider appears.  Using the slider the number of points on the circle can be set to any number between 3 and 36.

There are lots of mathematically interesting explorations that are available in this mode.  Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. With the number of points set to 12, what shape will result if lines are draw to connect every other point?
2. What shape results when the number of points is set to 10 and every other point is connected.  What about connecting every fourth point.
3. What’s the difference between setting the number of points to a prime number versus a composite number?
4. Set the number of points to 24.  Explore connecting every 4, 6, or 8 point.

The learning environment gets even richer if the circular protractor is added to the iPad display.  In this mode students can measure angles. Here we have the number of points set to 36.  The screen shows a 30° angle.  Two legs of the triangle are radii of the same circle and therefore congruent.  What is the measure of the other two angles?

# Election 2016

With the presidential election coming up in November of this year, I thought it would be beneficial for teachers to have an app that helps to explain the election process and the meaning of the Electoral College.  The world’s attention is focused on the U.S. Election since the outcome will have a profound effect all countries.  It is important for U.S. citizens to understand how the process works.

The app has historical data from 1976 to present and by tapping icons the user can manipulate the U.S. map to show which states cast their votes for the Democratic candidates and which voted Republican in previous elections.  It’s interesting to tap through the years and watch the map change dynamically.  At any point the user can tap the issues icon to display  a short list of the major issues of the day.

If desired, as the user taps through the presidential election years the symbol for the winning party can be displayed.

One of the best features of the app is the Electoral Vote scorecard for the 2016 election.  Here the user can predict which states they think will be red Republican States and which will be blue Democratic states.  User can test different scenarios to see how their favorite candidate might win.  Will 2016 be a landslide or a narrow victory.  Only time will tell…

Get your students involved in the political process and help them better understand the Electoral College using Election 2016.

# The Menagerie

The dictionary defines a menagerie as ‘a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition’, so it seemed to be an appropriate name for this logic game where the object is to get all the critters on a 6 x 6 grid into locked cages.

When you tap a critter all the available moves are shown with green lights.  Critters can only be moved once and the number of spaces that each can be moved is indicated.  The critters in each puzzle are randomly picked so each puzzle provides a unique experience.  Enjoy hours of fun solving these challenging puzzles.

The critters range from bears to butterflies and will hopefully be appealing to children.  There are 11 puzzles.  Critters can be moved 1, 2, 3 or 4 spaces but only once.  It’s a challenge to find a way to get all the critters safely locked in the menagerie.

Thinking logically is such an important skill for kids to develop.  Puzzles and games offer an opportunity to develop logical thinking skills.  I think it would be good for kids to work in small groups to try to solve The Menagerie puzzles which is why I developed it for both iPad and Apple TV.

The Apple TV version of The Menagerie works with both the Siri Remote and compatible bluetooth game controllers.  Hopefully teachers and parents will encourage the players to discuss possible moves and explain the logic that they used to decide on a move.

Each puzzle has about 20 to 30 critters.  With more critters the puzzle gets a little more challenging.  If you like word or number games that are played on a grid, you will also like The Menagerie.

It has always been interesting to me that grids just seem to be a natural way to organize information.  Are our brains predisposed to information arranged in rows and columns? Spreadsheets, for example, use a grid where rows and columns are labelled with letters and numbers to identify cells. When the streets of a town are numbered in one direction and labelled alphabetically in the perpendicular direction , it always seems easier for me to find my way around.  Recently, brain researchers  studied a group of human participants.  The experiment used a virtual reality environment with the subjects lying in a fMRI brain scanner.  The research showed that specialized grid cells in the brain have a spatially-organized firing pattern.  These grid cells function to create a spatial map in the brain.  The research suggests that internal grids or maps are created in our brains to help organize and understand new environments.

Scientists at the University College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience have shown that specialized neurons play a role in spatial memory.  Specialized neurons that are being called ‘grid cells’ have been identified through rat and mice studies and seem to represent a mechanism for how animals locate themselves in their environment.  It is almost like having a brain cell based GPS mechanism.  In animals, and now possibly humans, neuron firing patterns show up as geometrically regular grids.

So it seems obvious that the critters in The Menageries should be arranged in a 6 x 6 grid and it just seems to be an appropriate way to layout a logic puzzle.  I guess after millions of years of evolution our brains just like it that way!

# Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe

An eight note xylophone is a great way to introduce children to note reading and basic music concepts.  Just using eight notes limits the complexity of the learning activity and makes it more inviting for young children.   When I designed the Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe app I wanted to make it colorful and fun for kids to use.  I also wanted to have a part of the app that would let kids be creative.  With the app kids can compose, record and playback their own songs.  When the app first opens on an iPad a blank treble staff is shown and the title for the composition is My Song.  In this mode children make up melodies and discover combinations and patterns of notes that are pleasing.  The songs can be recorded by hitting the record icon (red dot) and played back by hitting the playback icon (green triangle).

After getting some time to explore, play and make up songs, it’s time to practice playing familiar songs.  By tapping songbook icon at the top left section of the screen, a song appears on the treble staff.  Below, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is shown.  A variety of songs can be selected by continuing to tap the songbook icon.

I hope this app will inspire kids to continue to learn about music.  Music can bring so much joy into a person’s life.  Just about everybody enjoys listening to music, but being able to play and create it is truly a wonderfully rewarding gift.

Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe is available at iTunes for only \$1.99.

Leave comment to let me know what you think.

# Kid’s Piano Deluxe

One of the great gifts that parents and teachers can give to children is the love and appreciation of music.  Enjoying and learning music can begin at any age, and even some would  say in utero.  Kid’s Piano Deluxe is designed to introduce music concepts for kids about age 5 and up.  Anyone who is new to music, the piano and music notation can learn the basics with Kid’s Piano Deluxe.

When I was designing this app I had quite a few challenges.  First, I needed to make it work on an iPad screen which is quite a bit smaller than a full-size 88 key piano keyboard.  I decided that the best solution was to limit the number of keys to about 2 octaves.  Since the purpose of the app is to introduce music concepts it didn’t seem necessary to have a full keyboard.  Second, displaying notes is tricky.  Different notes are needed, quarter notes, half notes and whole notes, for example.  Depending on where a note is to be displayed on the staff, the stem needs to go up or down.  Rest are needed to show that there is a pause in the music.  So as you can see, lots of logic needed to be employed in the programming methods in order to display the music correctly, but fortunately I love a challenge.

I wanted to have some interesting graphics in the app and I remembered a neat film that I used to show my students.  In the film birds would assemble themselves on five telephone wires representing the treble staff while a character danced on a crosswalk representing the piano keys.  It was a British film and so the crosswalk was striped like they are in England.  (Remember the Abbey Road album cover.)  In the film the birds would rearrange themselves on the staff (telephone wires) to tell the character which ‘keys’ to play on the crosswalk.  Great imagery! And it inspired me to use birds in the app.

In the Kid’s Piano Deluxe app there are ten lessons and each lesson is graphically illustrated.  After the lesson is read, the student is given some practice exercises.  After all, the way to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice…

For the practice activity, students are presented with a short piece of music and challenged to play it accurately.  Proper fingering is explained with a graphic and the keys on the piano labeled.

There are ten lessons.  Accuracy is recorded and displayed in a scoreboard.  Particular lessons can be selected by sliding the selector to a specific lesson.

I hope ‘kids’ of all ages will have fun learning music with this app.  It’s available at iTunes and is only \$1.99.