With American students falling increasingly behind in their mathematical proficiency, teachers and parents are turning to the power of games to help turn the trend around. Benesse, a Japanese education giant, has joined the cause with the introduction of StraightAce, a mobile app to help reluctant math students improve their skills.
The app, compatible with iOS and Android operating systems, is designed for middle school students who are struggling with math. Two thirds of middle school students in the United States are currently behind in math; if not remedied early on, this achievement gap can last long after students leave school.
Educational apps add an interactive, mobile component to learning that a textbook does not have, and StraightAce is no different. I registered because I wanted to brush up on my sixth grade math, and I found it quite beneficial. It has a number of handy features that not only make using the tool more enjoyable for students, but also allow parents to be involved in the learning process.
I took on the role of both the student and parent, so I got to see how it worked from both sides. After logging in as a student from my phone, I chose which grade level I wanted to do. For my first lesson, I decided to try the sixth grade level. I was taken to a lesson on ratios, though I could have chosen any of the other 150 lesson topics based on what my teacher was covering in class. I was given the option of either reading a lesson or going straight to the questions.
The lessons were very thorough in their explanations, but the app stood out the most in the question portion. There was “scratch paper” available, as well as the option to send a message to my parent for help, which, I later discovered, was delivered to a dashboard online where parents could follow their children’s progress. Whether I answered the question correctly or not, the app explained the answer, which I thought was very helpful. I remember when I played similar games as a child, I would zoom through without having any idea why I was getting the answers right.
Because it allows students to proceed at their own pace, the app can reduce the anxiety that inhibits so many kids from learning math. And hopefully it will help close the achievement gap during those critical years of middle school.