By tpm | December 8, 2011
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at a system called Reflex Math, designed to help kids learn arithmetic facts. The stated goal of Reflex Math is to gain “math fact fluency.” Reflex is designed to help students achieve fluency through an interactive system of games and puzzles.
Reflex is a cloud based system, meaning there’s nothing to download to your computer. As long as you have an up-to-date browser, Reflex runs right in that browser. As a high school teacher, I didn’t have elementary students to work with on Reflex, but I spent quite a bit of time trying it out in Chrome, where I didn’t encounter a single bug. I also showed it off to a few of my high school students who seemed a little put out that “they didn’t have anything like that for us when we were kids.”
The game system itself is very entertaining. Every time a student logs on to the system, they interact with virtual animal coaches (a crab and bear) who put them through a short series of drills focusing on specific math facts. The virtual coaches also spend some time explaining the concepts behind the facts. After about 5 minutes of fairly controlled drill practice of having to answer one question to proceed to the next, students have a lot of freedom to select their own activities.
There are seven different games for the students to play, all of which offer the opportunity to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as specified by the teacher. I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the games. As far as browser based games go, the graphics and especially the music were excellent, and they played very smoothly on the laptop I used (not a blazingly fast machine). The games offer a variety of different activities for the kids from guiding a hot air balloon to a very eerie Egyptian game that features a cat with magical powers defending himself against mummified animals.
I think the control system on the games as my favorite part of Reflex Math. You don’t just answer one question to advance to the next one. In most of the games, a number of questions appear on the game simultaneously. You can answer any question you want, but it will affect the movement of your character; choose the wrong question to answer and you may steer your character into harm.
Reflex Math’s “Kirie”
As you progress through the games, there is more happening on the screen (more enemies, more complicated mazes, etc.), meaning that your mental energy becomes divided between playing the game and answering the questions. If you don’t know the math facts very well, you’ll have a really hard time succeeding in this balancing act. This mental “overload” is how Reflex encourages math fact fluency. Solving the problems needs to become second nature to be successful in playing the games.
Reflex Math is designed for schools to purchase licenses for entire classes. Teachers have the ability to input their students manually or via uploading a .csv file with the entire classroom roster. You can get reports tracking your students progress. The reports to get very specific about which problems need work, even down to the exact arithmetic problems that the students have mastered and which ones they are still missing.
I can enthusiastically recommend Reflex Math for elementary teachers looking for ways to help students have instant recall of math facts. It’s a very professionally produced game system that kids will enjoy playing, and it offers teachers a strong system of tracking student progress.
Click here to get a free trial of Reflex Math.