Two Northwest Missouri State University faculty members have developed an iPad application to enhance elementary students’ understanding of multiplication.
Jenni Wall, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and Michael Rogers, assistant professor of computer science and information systems, created Fruit Plate Math last spring and launched version 2.0 this month.
The free app is designed to provide a learning boost for children in the early stages of learning multiplication. It uses images of fruit on plates along with the interactive nature of the iPad itself to help youngsters better visualize the correct answers to various problems.
"So many apps only allow students to practice something they already know," Wall said. "Plenty of research has shown that if students actually construct their own knowledge, they will understand it more fully and will retain it a lot better."
For example, one Fruit Plate Math screen shows an image of three plates holding two apples and four bananas — six pieces of fruit on each plate. Students are asked to work through the multiplication problem using the distributive property.
If you've forgotten your third grade arithmetic, that means you determine the sum by multiplying each addend separately and then adding the products: 3 plates x (2+4) fruits = 18 fruits.
"Memorizing facts is definitely important, but this sort of conceptual understanding is far more important to develop at the start," Wall said.
Heidi Beatty, a teacher at Northwest's Horace Mann Laboratory School, collaborated with Wall by creating a lesson plan incorporating the new app, which was then tested in a third-grade classroom.
"Watching students use it at Horace Mann, it is clear that we have something that is both entertaining and educational — the perfect combination," Rogers said.
According to Wall, Fruit Plate Math has been downloaded more than 400 times by users in six countries. The app is available for a no-charge download from the iTunes App Store at itunes.apple.com/us/app/fruit-plate-math/id626515432?mt=8.