Math Attack is Fun, but Doesn't Quite Add Up

Math Attack (AppStore Link)
User Reviews
Math Attack
Developer: Ezra Koper
Price: $0.99 Download on the App Store

math attack iphone appMath Attack - I have a bit of experience when it comes to incorporating technology and learning, but I will refrain from giving you my resume and simply say that I appreciate games that attempt to make learning fun. I especially see a great deal of potential when it comes to math games, like Koper Soft’s Math Attack, and while there are certainly no shortage of flashcard and math apps in the ITunes Store, I was still excited to have a chance to check out a new one.

The premise behind Math Attack is solid — make practicing math facts a game and incorporate the action and sounds of blowing things up. Seems like a no-brainer. You have the option of selecting one or a mix of the four standard functions — addition, subtraction, multiplication and division — as well as the “difficulty” level to start. Definitely on the right track here, as some kids struggle with all of the functions, while others just some, and it’s nice to reinforce all basic math facts regardless.

Math Attack plays out like this: a bear pilot flies his single-prop plane trailing a banner with a math fact across the top of the screen and four possible answers parachute down. Using the left and right onscreen directional arrows, players move their missile launch pad under the correct answer and press it to fire. An explosion ensues and the next math fact comes flying out. After five correct answers in a row, Math Attack levels up one difficulty level. After each wrong answer, the plane descends lower on the screen, giving players less time to contemplate the answer. A wrong answer also costs you a life, even if you eventually guess the right answer, and the game ends when all lives are lost.

As I said before, there is huge potential for making math games fun and productive for kids and while Math Attack is a solid premise, it is lacking a few details that would make it excellent. To be fair, the developer states Math Attack is for ages five to adult. But be honest. How many adults are interested in playing a game with juvenile graphics and sound effects to practice their math facts? I dare say not many. So the intent should really focus on kids, but there are a few things about Math Attack that don’t add up.

We’ve established that the ability to mix up functions is nice. When you only have five equations before leveling up, I don’t think that supplies enough practice at each level. If you choose one function, say addition, then it works better than mixing up the functions. From what I can see this stems from Math Attack’s unnatural progression in difficulty. Adding double digits in your head is quite a bit easier than multiplying them. For instance, in level 6 of Math Attack with three functions selected, I was given 14 + 20 followed by 14 x 17. That is not the same difficulty level to a kid. If there are 99 levels of difficulty, how on earth would anyone but an MIT graduate advance that far — let alone a nine-year-old?

If Math Attack featured a more natural progression in difficulty and featured self-adjusting levels that would back the player down after say three failures, then we might be on to something. As it is, the difficulty jumps forward too quickly without enough play time to reinforce basic facts and once players surpass their own abilities, the game ends too quickly, which I fear will discourage kids from replaying. Repetition is what practicing math facts is all about.

Math Attack is definitely more engaging than just flipping boring old flash cards and some of the features, like the selection process and decreasing time to think about an answer, are strong inclusions. Since Math Attack is priced less than some of the similar apps it scores points for value and if kids utilize it to practice a single function rather than a mix, it has a bit more value. However, it still falls short of accomplishing all it could by not tailoring the difficulty of the facts to the difficulty of the level.

Image Gallery: Math Attack

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