What is integral to Thinkster’s innovative online tutoring program but is missing from almost all other apps for teaching math? According to New York Times science reporter Kenneth Chang, it’s a human element.
Chang, who writes an occasional column covering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) issues in education, details his children’s experience with Thinkster in a story titled “A Math App that Offers an Unusual Human Touch.” He praises Thinkster in The New York Times for creating a math teaching app unlike any other he’s encountered in that “it comes with a human being.” Chang writes:
“An instructor assigned to your child reviews the completed worksheets. The app captures all of the calculating scribbles and how much time was spent on each problem, so the instructor can see not only the wrong answers, but also how the mistakes were made. The instructor offers notes and encouraging voice memos and assigns new worksheets. The instructor also checks in via weekly video conference calls. … In a sense, then, Thinkster is a tutoring service delivered via iPad.”
Chang also interviews educators for his column, one of whom makes this interesting point: Thinkster combines 21st-century technology with 19th-century teaching methods (for example, old-school worksheets that can now be completed digitally). Indeed, our program does assign and grade work just as math curricula have done for decades. But unlike other apps for teaching math, Thinkster makes the process more efficient by analyzing how long and by what means a student answered a question, thus identifying the child’s strengths and weaknesses and tailoring future instruction to those skills. Students still are required to do the work, but the work (and rewards) is personalized to them.
The column notes that compared with other apps for teaching math, Thinkster’s program may seem expensive. But our program is much more advanced than any typical app you would purchase and install on your iPad. Thinkster truly is a math tutoring service, and when viewed as such (instead of simply an app), we are a bargain. Consider the hundreds of dollars brick-and-mortar tutoring centers charge for their services—our program provides the same human interaction and the same (if not better) personalized instruction but at a fraction of the cost.
Chang makes another good point in that math tutoring must be coordinated with what a student is learning in school. Again, Thinkster’s technology personalizes instruction, ensuring that the student has mastered the prerequisite skills before moving to advanced concepts. For example, if the student is learning fractions in school, the instructor mandates that the student is fluent in multiplication facts and understands the knowledge of factors and multiples.
What apps for teaching math has your child tried, and how did they compare to Thinkster?