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In this Edutopia article, Patrick Feeney recommends a number of tablet-based apps derived from classic thinking games, puzzles, and recreational math problems. “Puzzle apps are fantastic tools for training students to be creative mathematical thinkers,” says Feeney. “In addition, well-designed puzzle apps align perfectly with the following Common Core Standards: make sense of problems; persevere in solving them; reason abstractly and quantitatively; use appropriate tools strategically; look for and make use of structure; and look for regularity in repeated reasoning. Feeney recommends the following apps:
- Engel’s Enigma
- Tower of Hanoi
- Master Mind Code Breaker
- Set Pro
- Cut the Block
- Move the Turtle
- Slice It!
- Nine Gaps
- Rubik’s Cube
Here are Feeney’s criteria for selecting good puzzle apps:
- Depth of underlying mathematics – The game should have a rich math structure. Rubik’s Cube, for example, involves group theory and permutations.
- Interactive and fun – “A lot of math apps are quite static,” says Feeney, “and no more exciting than pen-and-paper versions of the same puzzle.” The best apps are inherently interactive and have colorful animated graphics.
- Visual – The patterns and structures within the game should be visually apparent. Rubik’s Cube brings the abstract math of permutations to a concrete level appropriate for young children.
- Easy to learn, hard to master – The best games ramp players up so they can achieve basic proficiency quite quickly, but then challenge them to apply those skills to solve harder and harder problems. “Avoid puzzles that get too hard too fast or don’t provide enough opportunities for intuitive breakthroughs,” says Feeney.
- Multiple levels – The best puzzles contain more than one math principle and can be used for different age levels, with older students going deeper and deeper into the mathematical content.
“Games in the Mathematics Classroom: There’s an App for That!” by Patrick Feeney in Edutopia, May 7, 2014,