Back in April, I attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual meeting in Indianapolis. In addition to taking in a number of professional development sessions, I was able to spend significant time on the exhibition floor, checking out the best of what math education products are just out and soon to be released. One of the most exciting technologies I saw was the new Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, math textbooks for the iPad. I'm excited to bring you a review of HMH Fuse, their iPad app.
"A Full Textbook Replacement"
That's how HMH reps described their apps to me, and having seen the technology up close, I think that understates the case. The apps contain the entire text of the paper version of the text with a lot of additional features. The idea is that schools will purchase classroom sets of the ipad texts in just the same way that they would purchase a classroom set of paper textbooks. The texts can be check out to a new set of students each year. A $60 purchase gets you a 6-year license on a book.
If that sounds pricey, it's really not when you look at the cost of a traditional book. Classroom textbooks can easily go over $100. I would guess the average life of a paper textbook should be about 10 years (even though many schools are forced by budgets to push it to 20), so the cost per year per student isn't really that different from a traditional book. Given how much more you get with HMH Fuse textbooks, I can picture parents whose children use traditional textbooks buying these apps as a supplemental study aid for their kids. This is also a perfect solution as a homeschool textbook. HMH reps told me that iPad is just the beginning. They have already started looking at other platforms, and I can see how this type of book would work extremely well on Android as well.
So in addition to displaying everything you'd see in a traditional textbook, what else do you get with the HMH Fuse books? Honestly, there's more here than I could have hoped for in a first generation iPad textbook.
Video tutorials are among my favorite features. In several locations in each lesson of the book, you'll find a video tutorial with a professor. More than just a video, the mini-lesson is closed captioned and offers a virtual whiteboard on the right side of the screen to clarify what the professor is describing. Audio quality of the tutorials is fantastic and the video quality is very solid, if not quite crystal clear.
"MathMotion" is another interesting HMH Fuse feature. Next to many textbook examples, there is a "View in Motion" button to tap on, which brings up the example in MathMotion. In MathMotion, students control the solution to the example. The problem is worked out, much the way it would be on a chalkboard, and students can advance how quickly they want to see it worked out by swiping in the margin.
Most textbooks have examples for student to try out. However, teachers like myself go crazy when they work out the examples in the margins of the book. With HMH Fuse, you can try the problems write on the iPad, including a scratchpad that comes up for doing calculations so there's no need for paper. You can also leave notes in the margin to come back to later, another thing that we teachers don't like to see in a paper textbook. Notes can not only be typed out but also recorded by voice, allowing for a lot of flexibility. There's also the ability to do secure assessments write on the iPad itself, meaning a student could be asked to answer a series of questions about the lesson with the questions being uploaded automatically for the teacher to see how the students are doing.
I also like really like the fact that the apps came with some built in tools to help the students. For Algebra, the tools included a simply graphing calculator, quadratic and linear explorer, and algebra tiles. For Geometry, it was a shape explorer that included congruency, 3D shapes, and parallelograms.
Bottom Line HMH Fuse Math Texbook Review
Sometimes a new app comes out that sets the standard, and you know a whole genre of apps will follow. HMH Fuse textbooks are at that level. I believe this is the direction we're headed with textbooks. Whether it'll take 2 years or 20 for widespread adoption, I have no idea, but if you're lucky enough to have kids at a school that's an early adopter, they're going to love these apps. If not, you ought to consider if these apps as a supplement to your child's textbook.
Click here to try out the HMH Algebra app or the HMH Geometry app. They include a free chapter to try out and are $59.95 to buy the whole book. I'll warn you to be patient because they are large due to the video components and will take a while to download.