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.

Thoughts on various bits of Kindle, eReader news and speculation

The Kindle is again stirring up speculation of all sorts. There’s also some interesting Kindle related news.

Author finds a new way to market his book

An author at the official Kindle forum has found a new way to market his book –

  1. He announced 20 free copies – all he asked for, in return, was a genuine review.
  2. There were soon 250+ replies, with at least 100 people interested in reviewing the book.
  3. It’s gotten a lot of buzz. It might have cost him a few thousand dollars in advertising to get a similar level of publicity.

A good indicator of how competitive things are is that another half a dozen or so authors are now offering a similar deal. It’s less than a day, and already authors are copying what worked for one author. People are severely under-estimating how competitive things are going to be.

5.4 million Kindles and 4.5 million Kindles

Ming-Chi Kuo, former analyst at DigiTimes, and current analyst at Concord Equity Research, has this to say –

  1. 5.4 million Kindle 3s and Kindle WiFis sold since launch. 
  2. Amazon shipped 1.6 million Kindles in December – same as iPad. However, iPad sales in the winter quarter are expected to be between 5 and 10 million units. The shipments are down only due to iPad 2 being on the horizon.
  3. 4.5 million Kindles are expected to ship in Q1, 2011. That seems an awfully optimistic estimate. Unless there’s a new Kindle, it might be hard for Amazon to sell 1.1 million Kindles a month.
  4. 12 million eReaders have been shipped so far, and another 27 million eReaders will ship in 2011. Another very optimistic estimate – almost bordering on the unbelievable.

Thanks to Apple Insider for the scoop.

B&N might have two eReaders lined up – Nook2 and Nook Kids

PocketNow has the news that B&N is applying for a lot of new trademarks. There’s some intelligent speculation – Evan Blass at PocketNow points out that two of the trademark applications seem to be for new devices.

  1. One seems to be for the second version of the Nook, named Nook2.
  2. The other seems to be for a Nook aimed at children, called Nook Kids. The description reads –  

    “portable electronic apparatus for displaying, receiving, reading and storing downloadable electronic publications, namely, books, e-books, magazines, newspapers, text, images, digital web site content and digital media featuring music through wired and wireless Internet access, accessories therefor and instructional manuals, sold as a unit.”

  3. Both Nook2 and Nook Kids trademark applications were filed on June 8th. The same day that B&N applied for the Nook WiFi trademark.

There’s also talk of a software called Nook Cook, and a service called Nooksellers – which seems to be a recommendation engine.

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 ought to be very interesting

Amazon has done really well with Kindle 3. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that B&N had something lined up, realized it couldn’t compete with Kindle 3, and went back to the drawing board.

If a Nook 2 arrives in early 2011, and it’s good, it could cause a lot of problems for Amazon. On one side, there’d be Nook Color eating up the casual reader market, and on the other side, there’d be an improved Nook 2 – stealing away readers interested in library books and ePub.

Depending on what features the Nook 2 has, it might even force Amazon to drop the price of the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi. We do need more competition in the eReader space – a Nook2 would be great for everyone.

Is a Kindle for Kids in the works? If not, how will Amazon respond to Nook Kids?

If B&N manages to introduce an unbreakable ‘Nook Kids’ eReader, for $100 to $150, it would do exceptionally well in the children’s eReader market (which we’re assuming exists). Already, with the Nook Color, B&N has shown its interested in the children’s book market. Now, with this trademark registration for ‘Nook Kids’, you have to imagine there’s a high chance we’re about to see the first eReader made for kids.

The biggest concern parents have is that they can’t hand a $189 or $139 eReader to a kid, who might drop it or throw it, and literally throw away all that money. An unbreakable eReader would solve the issue.

At the same time, most parents do want an eReader for their kids – reading makes kids smarter, it’s a far better use of free time than TV and video games, and it can also be used for school-work.

The market is huge. You have to suspect an unbreakable Nook Kids would also do very well with junior school and middle school kids. If B&N includes support for library books, and it almost certainly will, it becomes very, very compelling.

Kindle for Kids thoughts, bestselling kindle children's books – 88 cents

On your Kindle, for your kids and grandkids, loads of deals –

  1. 4 Curious George books are available for 88 cents each. The link goes to the author page – You can click ‘Kindle Books’ and 3 of the books on the first page are 88 cents. They are all very well rated. Written by Hans Augusto Rey.
  2. 9 Berenstain Bears books are on offer for just 88 cents each. Most are rated 4.5 stars or 5 stars. The link goes to the Author Page – Please click on ‘Kindle books’ to see the Kindle editions. 7 of those on the first page and 2 of those on the second page are just 88 cents. They’re written by husband-wife pair Stan and Jan Berenstain. 260 million copies have been sold so far.
  3. 5 books in the A to Z Mysteries Series are on offer for 88 cents. Most are rated 5 stars. The link goes to the Author’s Page and again you’ll have to click on ‘Kindle Books’. The first two pages have 4 88 cent books and you might find a few more by searching for ‘A to Z mysteries’ in the Kindle Store.
  4. 8 Magic Tree House books for 88 cents each. It’s the same trick again – The link takes you to the author’s page and you click Kindle books and you get 8 very well rated books for 88 cents each. Written by Mary Pope Osborne.

It’s impressive that for $23 you can get 28 really good children’s books. Anyone who thinks physical books are going to have 75% of the market in 2015 has his eyes wide shut.

Thanks to Petrona at the official kindle forum for the update.

Kindle for Kids thoughts

  1. Breakability is probably still the #1 concern. Both the Kindle screen and the Kindle innards are still too fragile. As Kindles get thinner and compacter it’s even more of a concern.
  2. Lack of Parental controls is probably the #2 concern. Your kid might find something totally inappropriate like one of those werewolf ultra-romance novels. Not only would you have to explain the facts of life you’d have her/him having nightmares about mediterranean princes who turn into werewolves hiding under the bed.
  3. The inability to password protect book purchases is the third big concern.
  4. There are a few games in the iPhone App Store that try to link rewards to good behavior – Life as a RPG. It’d be good to get an app that keeps track of kids’ reading and rewards them with something – perhaps new games to play, perhaps gold stars.
  5. There’s obviously a huge opportunity for apps that teach reading and help improve kids’ vocabulary.
  6. Price-wise we’re getting close enough – $139 is almost low enough for a Kindle for Kids.
  7. The Internet is a concern – It’d almost be a good idea to have an option to turn WiFi and/or the browser off.
  8. Simplified Menus and options. Actually, the Kindle is already close.
  9. Better text to speech quality and more options in terms of speed of speaking. Perhaps even a pronunciation guide.

Can’t decide whether having a Kindle as a kid would be the coolest thing ever or it’d be better to have a library and lots of bookshelves. Perhaps kids should have both – Books lining up the shelves of their rooms and Kindles they can take to school.

Nook Color is actually making a very strong push in children’s books. Ran into yet another review that starts with ‘wasn’t expecting much’ and ends with ‘it’s good and it’s half the price of an iPad’. Both Steve Jobs and Mr. Bezos need to start getting their answer to the Nook Color in place.