A few interesting apps for the Kindle aimed at kids

The Kindle holds a lot of promise in that it might be able to get a lot more kids interested in reading.

One of the things that might help with that are apps aimed at kids. Whether it’s small fun games like Hangman for Kids ($1.99, rated 4.5 stars on 11 reviews), or education oriented apps like the two released this week – apps for kids help the Kindle be a better device/ereader for kids.

This week we saw the arrival of two very interesting apps aimed solely at kids -

  1. Flash Cards: Basic Math for Kids by Digi Ronin Games. Price: $2.99. Genre: Kindle Apps, Kindle Apps for Kids, Math, Flash Cards. This is an app that lets kids exercise their basic math skills – addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. It’s a cool idea and it’s interesting to think that kids can address 2 out of the 3 R’s with the Kindle now. Well, it’s a start – with a few more apps like this, they definitely will be able to.

    Flash Cards: Basic Math for Kids helps your child learn basic arithmetic by giving them practice doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There are five difficulty levels designed around common arithmetic learning concepts that progress from single digit operations with no regrouping to double digit problems with regrouping. There are three different modes of play

  2. Flash Cards: Fractions for Kids by Digi Ronin Games. Price: $2.99. Genre: Kindle Apps for Kids, Fractions, Flash Cards. This app covers fractions.

    Flash Cards: Fractions helps your child learn about fractions by giving them practice doing conversions from fractions to decimals and percentages, and converting from percentages and decimal values back to fractions.There are four difficulty levels designed around common fraction usage.

These are both very good, solid additions to the Kindle Store. Perhaps at some point of time the creators will try out $1 and reduce the friction for people wanting to try out the apps.

Random thoughts on the Trachtenberg System of Speed Math and Vedic Maths

I’ve always wanted to make an app that was a combination of Vedic Maths and Trachtenberg’s System of Math. If a few more apps like these come out, that might be enough motivation to do this. Wouldn’t even mind if Digi Ronin or someone else made an app – would even consult with them if they needed the help.

Here are a few simple math tricks.

1) Vedic Math – Squaring Numbers that end in 5

If the number is of the form x5, where x could be 2 or something larger like 11, simply take x and multiply it by x+1. Then append 25 to the end of it.

Example: 75.

75 = 7 appended to 5.

Take apart the 7 and multiply it by 7+1. 7*8 = 56.

Then just append 25 at the end of it to get 5625.

Example 2: 125.

125 = 12 appended to 5.

Take apart the 12 and multiply it by 12+1. 12*13 = 156.

Then just append the 25 at the end of it to get 15625.

2) Trachtenberg system of Math – Multiplying by 11

Courtesy Jim Loy’s Trachtenberg System of Math page (though buying the book is the best option).

To multiply by 11 go left to right and add each digit to the one to the right of it. Also, write down the left-most digit first and the right-most digit last and append them at the two ends.

So abcd by 11 =

a appended to (a+b) appended to (b+c) appended to (c+d) appended to d.

Example: 4253 by 11

That’s 4 appended to 6 appended to 7 appended to 8 appended to 3. Answer = 46783.

Example 2: 77834 by 11

That’s 7 appended to 14 appended to 15 appended to 11 appended to 7 appended to 4. Here we have carries which we treat just like we would in normal addition. We add those in and we get 856174.

It’s a bit crazy just how easy this is. Would you rather have a kid memorize the tables for 11 or would you rather let kids learn this simple rule and multiply absolutely any number by 11?

People wouldn’t really be scared of Math if they knew all the secrets and things that make math super straightforward.

A little on the history of Trachtenberg Speed Math and on Vedic Math

Trachtenberg thought up the Trachtenberg Speed System of Math in a concentration camp. That’s just bad ass. That’s something Chuck Norris would be proud of.

It’s an entire system of math that turns people into math geniuses. Yet, 50+ years after it’s been invented, we’d rather have people grow up thinking they suck at mathematics and are stupid because of it.

It does take some work to get it – However, look at the multiplication by 11 rule above. Isn’t that a thousand times more elegant than having kids stumble around for a calculator?

Also, once you try out the rule a few times you can write out the answer quicker than you could key the digits into a calculator. Practice the Multiply by 11 rule a bit and then take 5346547 x 11 and try it out yourself.

Vedic Maths is based on ancient Indian books, the Vedas. The multiplication by 5 rule is one example. Vedic Maths has been studied quite a bit and has gotten a lot more coverage than the Trachtenberg system, but they are both relatively obscure.

There aren’t very many super easy introductions to Vedic Math. However, this Vedic Mathematics book is a decent introduction. It’s written by the gentleman who figured out that the Vedas had this math system hidden in them. It’s difficult to read but very rewarding.

Could we combine Vedic Math with Trachtenberg’s System of Math?

The blueprint for a great math app would be something that combined all the key principles from Vedic Maths with the structure of Trachtenberg’s System of Math. The current approach is to play up the ‘mental math’ aspect which is a pity. It’s as if someone got gifted a rocket that can fly to the moon and he’s using it as an advertising blimp.

The real point of it should be to replace how math is taught. Why not teach Trachtenberg Math and Vedic Math as the foundation? If we treat these two incredibly powerful approaches to mathematics as party tricks it misses the whole point.

Of course, it’s easy to be cynical about why really powerful stuff like this gets left out of education.

Who would want every single student (or perhaps 80% of students) to start thinking they were math geniuses and intelligent. That would make things awfully inconvenient for people who wanted to sell them variable rate mortgages or, for that matter, non-voting stock in Internet companies that don’t make any profits.

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