Mathletics: 1+1=1.5

My daughter’s school recently ran a month-long trial of the “next generation in online Math learning platform” – Mathletics (http://www.mathletics.com).

It’s a site which aims to augment maths teaching/practice for children from 4 to 13. Its ‘next generation’ label comes from the online and gaming aspects which “students love”. I sat down with my daughter to find out how she responded to it.

On logging in, the first thing she did was create an avatar, and choose a character to guide her through the site (so far so good). She then started work on two challenges set by the school: nothing new here – just a series of maths questions with an answer box (just as you might see on paper) – on a right answer, a tick; on a wrong answer, a cross: no feedback or hints on approaches. To complete the challenge, all ten questions have to be answered correctly; any errors, and the whole ten questions (same ones, in order) have to be attempted again.

As a result, she soon got frustrated and gave up on these challenges, then spent a good 30 minutes changing hair, backgrounds, colours etc. on her avatar (the avatar area takes tips from Moshi Monsters et al, and inherits something of the same engagement level). No maths learning here though.

The one redeeming ‘next generation’ feature is a live challenge mode, where you can play against other students from around the world. On starting, you are assigned three other competitors, and a countdown clock starts, as mental maths questions appear on screen: the aim being to answer more than your competitors in the time available. This certainly attracted both of us, but within seconds frustration was back, as all three of the competitors stormed ahead (easily beating our combined efforts): there is no obvious option to filter competitors to different age ranges or skill levels to provide a challenge, rather than an impossible task.

All in all, Mathletics is a poor example of gamification – applying apparently ‘motivating’ aspects of games and playful activities (in this case, the use of customisable avatars and competitive aspects with avatar-rewards) to what is essentially a very traditional try-and-repeat approach to teaching. The gaming aspects add nothing to the experience other than temporarily diverting (and non-learning) activities around the edges.

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3 responses to “Mathletics: 1+1=1.5

  1. I’ve heard about mathletics before, and the kid in question thought it was brillliant – but perhaps he was older, or unevenly matched? I can imagine being better than the people around the world you are matched with would be very satisfying, but if the challenge is too hard as you say, then it’s just frustrating.

  2. I’ve also heard of Mathletics and have been recommended to use it with our boys too, but on the strength of what you say here it fails miserably. With no feedback or help to understand what you might have done wrong or what you may want to consider when trying to correct a mistake, not to mention the competitive nature of putting a 4-6 year old up against a 13 year old, puts me right off.

    I’d be interested to hear what your daughters school said about the application after their ‘trial’, and do you have any input?

    All the best, David.

    • I agree – It’s the lack of feedback, and the very traditional approach (when you could easily embed mathematical challenges within games) which makes this so poor, and no better than sitting down at a table with a maths textbook and giving stickers as rewards; then sending your kid off to play on moshi monsters for an hour…
      No details from the school as yet, but they don’t seem to have taken up the extension. I’ll see what I can find out.

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