Motion Math’s Jacob Klein Fuses Learning with Fun

Motion Math is a company that wants to challenge the very idea of math anxiety, replacing fear with fun. The suite of kid-friendly math game apps is designed to boost a player’s confidence in learning basic math skills. Last week, the company announced via press release that they had reached one million downloads on the iOS app market, over half occurring in just the last four months. The news indicates a growth in the interest of applying mobile technology especially for early educational purposes, and co-founder Jacob Klein wants to keep up the momentum.

Motion Math was jointly conceived with co-founder Gabriel Adauto as the pair’s master’s project at the Stanford School of Education.

“It’s clear that too many kids aren’t engaged with math and aren’t mastering the basic skills they need,” Klein said. “One reason games are great for teaching math is that they’re a low-risk environment, as opposed to tests, which have high stakes for teachers, schools, kids.” Klein doesn’t aim to replace traditional tests with games, but rather intends to boost a test-taker’s confidence by taking out much of the stress some students associate with math.

Motion Math: Wings and Motion Math: Hungry Fish both include variable difficulty levels that are challenging even for adult learners. I counted myself among the company’s million downloads when I picked up Hungry Fish on a friend’s iPad. The object of the game is to maneuver your numbered fish to swallow the correct digits in floating bubbles to make your fish grow larger. Feeling bold, after I breezed through the opening level’s “3” fish, I ratcheted up the difficulty as high as it would go. I panicked while my “41” fish gradually began to shrink as I dashed around trying to figure out what number added to 17 totaled 41. 

“We designed the top levels in our games to be really tough for adults.” Klein said. “No one likes a game that’s too easy …” The game was certainly challenging. It was also educational in a way that made me feel like I could have used that number chart my mother pinned to my wall as a child.

What number combinations feed the -11 fish?

The games feature pleasing visuals and the kind of intuitive control that only a touchscreen device can provide. The platform is ideally suited for teaching children early math skills in a fun and engaging manner. As a company report indicated, the “abstract is touchable.” The fluid experience allows for a level of interactivity previously unavailable on computers.

Klein believes tablet use in the classroom will only grow over time, a sentiment shared by a number of edutech startups focusing on mobile devices. “Budgeting remains the main challenge for schools adopting new technology,” he said. But he was quick to point out that Apple announced that iPads were outselling Macs in schools. “There are a lot of pilot programs where one classroom or one school in the district will have a set of iPads.”

The company’s main downloads appear to come from parents who understand that learning doesn’t end in the classroom, especially for young kids. Adults who own iPads can download Motion Math titles for their children to enjoy, a simple and free way to boost a child’s interest and proficiency in math skills. Any children of the 90s reading this? Who remembers the suite of educational games like Math Blaster, made for early PCs from the Blaster Learning System? It may have required a computer the size of a filing cabinet to run it, but it certainly was fun and effective. In terms of intuitive control however, Klein observes you can’t beat an iPad.

Motion Math’s latest effort is a prequel to Hungry Fish, a game called Hungry Guppy intended to reach preschool-aged kids. The company says the game has “the same engaging gameplay, but uses a mix of dots and numbers to allow kids as young as two to learn their numbers and basic addition.”

Any readers interested in trying out any of Motion Math’s games can view a full list of available apps. Anyone out there given any of these games a try, either on their own or for their children? Sound off in the comments below.