Free on Android (soon to be ported to Apple iOS and Windows)
I love the smell of maths in the morning.
Numbugs PowerUp is an app to help children improve their arithmetic skills, everything from counting up to equations (find x if 5 – x = 1) and division. Note that the app doesn’t aim to teach them these skills, but rather to improve them. Because the aim is rapid improvement, and not conveying fundamental concepts, I think the app does well.
Your mission is to help Addy the Anteater (…I don’t know. What about Alex? That’s a good name for an anteater, or baby human. Just sayin’) in his journey through the jungle defeat the evil Numbugs from taking over. Why the description says ‘journey’ and ‘taking over’, I’m not sure, because Addy doesn’t move and the bugs just seem to walk with mutinous expressions towards him (and deal damage when they arrive at Addy unharmed) and then go merrily on their way. No cities are razed, no Anteater empires crumble. But I digress.
You help Addy to defeat said Evil Bug Dudes by solving the numerical problem floating above their heads, typing this number in and then tapping the bug in question. This causes Addy to blow a bubble from his nose (gross) and blow-dart it at the bugs, who will explode with a great squelching noise if the answer is right and shake off your mucus-bubble attack if you got it wrong.
There are different numerical challenges, such as counting or division, and each different operation has a series of levels. Numbugs PowerUp does this well – the easy levels are manageable and the later levels step up the difficulty until they become fairly challenging; playing as an adult, I started panicking around about when a whole series of bugs with the likes of 57 + 46, 45 + 59, etc floating above their heads turned up on screen and marched ever more quickly towards my poor, bewildered anteater (I don’t deal well with timed tests, which is what I told my parents when they saw my exam results in school).
When learning maths in primary school, I remember having to be given endless sheets of equations to practise, over and over, until things like addition and multiplication became either rote learned or a matter of seconds to work out. Division can be particularly hard, I think, and once you’ve learned the method, you really do just need to practise (the unheeded mantra of Calculus teachers everywhere).
Numbugs PowerUp is a great way to do this, given that it’s quite fun, the graphics are cute and the music is incredibly catchy – I caught myself humming it at home, having played the game all afternoon. The different types of skills required changes the game up a bit and the different levels stop the game from becoming boring and kids from becoming complacent. If you HAVE to learn Maths equations, you may as well do it by getting an anteater to explode ants.
The app is currently only available free on Android but is due to be ported over to Windows and iOS this summer.
A note of interest: the app is a result of a collaboration between several groups. Reading Quest is a charity to improve primary school kids’ classroom performance and the app is produced by its numeracy arm, Numeracy Quest. The app was created in collaboration with the RBS Group as part of a community investment scheme, where eight analysts from the markets and international banking graduate programme were asked to create Numbugs PowerUp (I’m not sure who came up with the name, but I can see why they’re markets and not marketing analysts).
The app took six months to build, with the help of University College London’s Computer Science department, who made the app development a piece of coursework for first year students, Reading Quest said.