This application is aimed at primarily High School and Middle School Students. The app visually looks very good. It has a clean professional look that you would expect from a major company with nice looking custom icons. The app itself doesn’t have a lot of features bells or whistles, it consists of two areas, practice tests and minitests. The minitests are scored and the app tracks your high scores so you can see your progress. It is important to think of this application as a study aid or learning tool and not a game. This app something you will want to use to supplement a math class or book. The application is called Algebra Prep: Factoring and only covers that particular aspect of Algebra. I have not seen others in the Algebra Prep series but one would think they are coming.
You will notice the download takes longer than you expect for a little math app. There is a reason for that, this is not a little math app, it clocks in at almost 170 MB. Most of my apps are measured in K and even big games are under 50 MB. Assassin’s Creed, a very large graphic intensive game, is only 130 MB. The reason for the size is quite simple though, Video. This application has lots and lots of video help. Every problem has help.
The Practice test area gives you a progressively harder series of 29 questions. Unfortunately this area only has 29 questions and after you complete them you are free to reset the prectice test but the problems are the same. As a study tool you will likely be working lots and lots of other problems or just keep drilling on these until you know them backwards and forwards. The practice tests have the actual problems you are given worked out so there is no guess work on how things apply to a particular situation.
The problems progress from easy to harder and include word problems where you need to know the formula for the area of a triangle. Don’t worry if you don’t know just ask for help and the video will show you. You can pause, scrub forward or back, raise the volume or say done and drop out of the video piece all while you remain in the app. This feature comes in handy when you don’t quite understand a problem and are working through the steps on paper along with the video.
The minitests have example problems, one of the problems from the practice test, that are of the same difficulty worked out. I don’t want to let this last sentence slip by you, I said example problems were of the same difficulty. Nothing used to frustrate me more as a math student than a math book where the example problems looked like factor x^2 + 4x + 4. So you factor it down to (x+2) (x+2) or (x+2)^2. Then you start your home work and end up with a problem that says factor x^2 – 7x – 78 and your supposed to get (x – 13) (x + 6)? This application does not do that to you. In fact when we ran across a harder problem that had more than one way to solve it and you were shown both in the video help.
The minitest are 8 questions long and are geared to take about 10 min to do. This is perfect as you can practice as much as you want with the practice tests but when you need to test yourself you aren’t tying yourself down to a half-hour session on the iPhone. After you complete the test you are scored and can review the test and the tests in the high score menu are always available for review too. For each question you see the question and the multiple choice answers like you did before but now the letter for the correct answer is Green while the incorrect answers are Res. Your answer was highlighted in blue and hopefully the two correspond. Again, if you decide that you want to see how to work the problem the examples are available.
The minitests too have a limited number of problems to them but they do cycle them through and randomize the answers you can take them a bunch of times before you start to feel like you were getting the same questions again. I took 6 before I started to say hey wasn’t that in here before. It also depends on how much time you are spending working the problems. Admittedly I know how to factor and spent several hours working this app continually so I was able to cover the content much faster than someone trying to learn. It is possible a student may never notice.
The reason the help content is so good is because it is simply video of a teacher showing you how the work the problem on a white board. A lot of effort was taken to have this footage look good. There isn’t any glare off the whiteboard which usually makes the writing hard to read. The marker is always dark black. The camera is zoomed in enough that all of the text needed for a problem ends up just fitting in the frame but you can always clearly see everything. The teacher annunciates very clearly and has impeccable hand writing. You may laugh at that but it makes such a difference when you are wrestling with where do I put parenthesis or divide out a 3. As far as viewing the work the teacher is doing I doubt most students will be this well severed in an actual class room. My wife a 6 year algebra teacher was even particularly impressed. She liked the video quality, teaching style and pace of explanations. One distraction is a floating Pearson brand in the lower left corner. It isn’t to obtrusive but it can have a tendency to pull your eye away from the explanation.
This app is definitely for students who want to learn factoring. If they are not motivated, like most things this won’t be able to teach them. It is still very important to work problems and show your work in order to learn this, sorry kids somethings in math don’t change, even on an iPhone. I don’t think this app would be a likely tool to use to teach yourself factoring from the ground up. In fact it assumes you are able to find multiples and factor numbers in order to understand the examples. It would, however, be a great companion for students learning this in school. It will help them hone their skills quickly or if they are struggling get some much need extra practice. If students were to get this app and work it hard as prep for factoring they would have a great grasp of the concepts as they come to them. At a $2.99 price point this could be one of the cheapest math aids out there. If you have a student who likes to play on an iPhone and would be willing to practice their math this app and hopefully the others in the series might be some of the best apps you buy for the phone. Educational tools are usually very expensive and one hour with a tutor would buy this app many times over. Check it out if you have a student who is going to be factoring this year.