Adaptive computer programs for math practice?
November 19, 2009 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Any good computer programs for math practice? Impoverished children need your help.

I'm a developing country watching some consultants pitch a computer program that helps students learn basic math. Essentially, students are asked questions and then moved to higher/lower difficulty questions based on their responses. If you do well with simple addition, you are moved to double-digit addition. And then double-digit addition with carryover. If they mess up on addition, then they get sent back down to basic counting. You know.

They've made their business model tremendously complicated. Despite never updating the software, they have the program run online and bill you for the program on a cash per student per year basis. That's whack.

I was wondering if anyone knew about educational software that covers a broad variety of math topics (the broader the better) with this sort of adaptive questioning without this ridiculous payment model. Computers might be easy to get, but this program would be crazy-expensive over time and internet access is no easy thing to provide (expensive and also hard to get in most of the country).

I understand that this kind of program is not going to repair math education, but it's not really going to be a harmful teaching aid (okay, I guess there's a bit of debate there), especially given the inexperience of most teachers in the country. These consultant are trying to sell a bunch of bullshit on how this software pinpoints where students are failing, but the truth is that it just offers personalized practice. A good thing, to be sure, but one that doesn't require their software. Right?
posted by Suciu to Education (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You can use and change the subject to basic math or multiplication tables. The site is cool for two reasons. One, it adjusts to your skill level, get a few right then it gets a little harder, get some wrong and it gets easier. Two, every question you get right, you donate some rice to the UN World Food Program. Oh and Three, its free!

Oh damn, I just saw the part about internet access being hard to get. That kind of makes it more difficult.

But yeah, the deal the consultants are offering seems designed to make nice residual incomes for them.
posted by fenriq at 8:41 PM on November 19, 2009

Also, found this big list of free programs to download.

Brothersoft Free Math Download
posted by fenriq at 8:44 PM on November 19, 2009

There are probably dozens of programs that do this.

Vut FWIW, having done the 'give poor kids computers' thing, don't expect them to jump on this.
posted by k8t at 8:55 PM on November 19, 2009

FreeRice is a cute example, but not covering anything beyond arithmatic is a problem. Preferably, it would at least cover fractions.

Nothing on brothersoft seems to either adapt or cover many types of lessons. Nice site though.

K8t, I'm not trying to sell computers to kids. I'm trying to make sure that these bureaucrats don't buy this software. They're not going to be convinced by "this doesn't work," but "there is a free, easier alternative" will be wildly persuasive.
posted by Suciu at 9:07 PM on November 19, 2009

I don't have software recommendations, but I do have a suggestion based on a statement in your last reply. Don't count on "there is a free, easier alternative" being wildly persuasive; they may be looking for a package that seems to solve most of their administrative problems. Sad to say but I've seen before where good, simple, supported open-source packages were trumped by expensive, complex solutions because they supposedly were less maintenance. Focus on the completeness of any solution you bring to them, and make sure to tout what support there is for it, whether in-house or through service contracts. There is more than merit being considered by academic administrators.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:19 PM on November 19, 2009

Look at Etoys running on Squeak (a language that can run on any operating system, and also on the OLPC laptops). Etoys is very flexible but has been used a lot to teach math. Free, open source, etc. Here are some examples of what you can do with etoys. You can do all different kinds of math- from understanding shapes to much more complex stuff, like modeling acceleration.
There's a very active developer community and a very very active user community, including a lot of educators in developing countries. Here's a site for educators in S. Africa, designed for teachers with no computer expertise.
posted by cushie at 9:20 PM on November 19, 2009

Academic is perhaps a poor choice of words given that basic math is what we're talking about; pretend I said educational administrators; thanks :/
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:22 PM on November 19, 2009

I think I'd have to design the program myself using squeak. Not really an option. :-/
posted by Suciu at 9:40 PM on November 19, 2009

I don't have a good answer for you. There's TuxMath which is a math-based computer game for young kids. (In case the name isn't a giveaway it's open source, and there are Windows builds.) The game is pretty limited.

If internet access is expensive but inkjet printing is cheap, feel free to use my own worksheet generator.

Oh, and check out Coolmath-Games. Save the .swf files to the desktops so you can run them locally.

Unfortunately, none of these are likely to present much of a threat to marketers touting a complete adaptive solution.
posted by Loudmax at 1:34 AM on November 20, 2009

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