Hands-On Equations

App Review by Michael Vallez

(CrazyMikesapps, April 2, 2012)

Hands-On Equations – Take the Fear Out of Algebra!

Hands-On Equations (by Borenson and Associates/Hands-On Equations) is a math education app that introduces algebraic equations in a fun and easy-to-grasp format, which includes a video example for each of the 6 lessons within the application, followed by 2 additional examples, 10 exercises for each lesson, and an overall review lesson for all the 6 lessons presented.

The Hands-On Equation concept takes the intimidating abstract element out of the algebra process and gives it to you in a tangible and visible way through a hands-on technique that revolves around a balance scale (non-moveable), pawns to represent “X” and number blocks to represent varying numeric amounts — all similar to game pieces to reduce the fear of tackling an intimidating algebraic equation.

Of course, the balance scale, pawns and blocks are all virtual representations of the original (physical) Hands-on Equation program, and work great in this iPad app. Although the application presents concepts that are normally taught in the 8th/9th grade, it is appropriate for kids as young as 8, it is also very useful for just about any student, especially those having a hard time with the traditional approach, and is suggested for struggling high schoolers or college students who haven’t been exposed to algebra before.

I actually found it to be a great refresher for me since it’s been many years since I’ve had to deal with any algebra. I started by exploring the lessons randomly and then ventured to solve a handful without any help. At first I fumbled through and didn’t come up with the correct answers, but upon further pondering and moving things about, I did solve the equations, although I have to admit, it would have probably been better and quicker had I watched the video and did the examples first.

The first lesson doesn’t allow you to move any game pieces, it’s more of an introduction that challenges you to mentally solve for the “X” value and to get you acquainted with the Hands-On Equation method.

As with most math apps, you build upon the skills that you learn from the previous lessons. It became more challenging and even more engaging when I actually got the chance to move the “physical” game pieces to set up the equation and solve for “X” on the balance scale. You move the pawn on either side of the balance scale, as well as the number blocks (1 pawn for each “X” and however many number blocks needed to represent the numbers given in the abstract equation), but you use a number slider to pull up the physical number that you want to plug into the abstract equation to solve for “X.”

There are actually 3 parts presented: the abstract equation on a chalkboard, a helpful set up for plugging in numbers to solve the equation (below chalkboard), and the visual part represented by the balance scale and game pieces.

If at anytime you get stuck, there is a help button that will take you back to the video, and the 2 examples prior to the lessons should more than be enough to get you going on the right path. Students can check to see if their answers are correct, and if not try again. When an equation is successfully solved, a trumpet sounds and gives a congratulatory message.

Everything about this application is great and is presented in a very simple, straightforward and helpful way, from the easy navigation, videos, lessons (practice, exercises, review) and help features. Not only is Hands-On Equations engaging, but it’s a fun way to learn a very intimidating subject. I