Review: Quick Maths+ for iOS

Quick Maths+

Working in the education world, I’m always trying to find new iOS apps that can help students. I’m also pretty keen on Australian-made apps. That’s why I was happy to hear that local iOS developers Shiny Things were releasing a new beefed-up version of their iOS maths app, called Quick Maths+.

I reviewed the first version back in January, and I found it to be a great little maths app for a small subset of maths operations. Well, they’ve come back and really upped the ante for this version targeted at players 8+; including memory, fractions, order-of-operations, estimation and a whole bunch more.

The design of Shiny Things apps have always been incredibly polished & distinctive, and this app is no exception. They’ve taken the friendly UI concepts that they pioneered in the original and made them even more refined. Large, friendly icons hop encouragingly on the home screen. Menus swoop in with a little understated flourish. Sound effects are there, but not overdone or gaudy. The app is portrait-only which is just perfect for how it works; writing numbers on the screen.

They’ve also implemented a new rewards system, using stars to motivate students into improving their times. It’s not easy either; in response to feedback they’ve also cranked up the difficulty on the higher levels. It took me several runs through to get a 3-star rating on the Beginner-level Solve stage.

The design of Quick Maths+

Respectful Design

Actually, that’s really what I like most about Shiny Things aesthetic, and what compelled me to write this review. Can I lay down some real talk for a second? Most education apps in the App Store are incredibly ‘kiddy’ in their design & execution and I feel like they don’t treat their users with a respectful design. It really bugs me, and I see it everywhere. Clunky intro screens, over-simplified instructions, gross interfaces; if you’ve spent any time with education apps you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Kids put up with this stuff to get to the good parts of the apps they use, and very rarely are those apps self-aware enough to just get out of the way.

Here’s a real world analogue; you know those people who lean down and talk to kids like they’re idiots? They kind of get in a kid’s face and yell enthusiastically at them in a weird high-pitched voice? That’s how I see a lot of iOS education apps. They treat their users like dummies, because y’know, kids.

Thing is, kids aren’t idiots. In fact, most of the time they’re more savvy with devices than their educators. Everyone deserves a chance to use well-designed apps that treat you with respect, and it’s even more important in the education space.

I really am glad that Shiny Things goes out of the way to bring an incredibly polished design, UI and aesthetic to the education space. Much in the same way that I see Pocket Casts leading the charge in iOS 7 design, I see Shiny Things taking an unapologetic stand in demanding a higher quality of experience for children in learning. There’s no dumbing-down in this app and no removing the challenging elements. It really does what it advertises; improves your maths skills.

There are other small touches which teachers everywhere will appreciate too, and make it obvious they’ve thought about how this works in a classroom environment. There’s an internal profile system set up, so each player doesn’t mess with their other’s score and progression. There’s a very easily-accessible mute button (a godsend in the classroom).

profile

I’ll be honest; usually education apps that try to ‘teach’ instead of giving a teacher ‘tools to create’ often don’t grab me. It comes a recurring crutch for teachers that substitute apps for a textbook, or send their students off to the corner for ‘some time with the iPad’.

I think Quick Math+ is different because it tackles a fundamental reality in maths; practice and repetition improves your skills. It also doesn’t shy away from another reality; students need to learn how to write numbers, not just tap a number button. In both these respects it excels, while delivering a highly-polished and thoughtful experience.

Other education app developers? Hope you are paying attention, because Shiny Things are making you look bad right now.

Quick Maths+ is now available on the App Store from today for AU$1.99. It’s a universal app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

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