In my experience as a teacher and a mom, a little competition can make almost anything engaging.

No matter how you approach teaching, there is simply no way around memorization within certain topics, and that is even more true for early mathematics. Mlob Rule, an interactive competitive tile matching game by Touch Press, makes the normally “rote” task of reviewing fractions into an engaging and fun opportunity for parents and teachers to sneak learning into gaming.

Kids take turns putting their math skills to the test by attempting to overcome the opposition in a battle for Fractopia, an imaginary world that is the home to Mlobs. Students who have a basic understanding of fractions will love the Candy Crush-esque style of play.

Truth be told, more than half the battle with practice is convincing kiddos to do it, but when I shared this game with my nine-year-old, Oliver, he approached it as a game, not a review activity. The game is appropriate for third grade, as evidenced by these standards:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.NF.A.3.B

Recognize and generate simple equivalent fractions, e.g., 1/2 = 2/4, 4/6 = 2/3. Explain why the fractions are equivalent, e.g., by using a visual fraction model.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.NF.A.3.D

Compare two fractions with the same numerator or the same denominator by reasoning about their size. Recognize that comparisons are valid only when the two fractions refer to the same whole. Record the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, or <, and justify the conclusions, e.g., by using a visual fraction model.

As an educator, I feel this is definitely a game that should be used for review–not as a part of a discovery-style lesson or as an introduction. It is a great supplement or practice activity, but the teacher interventions that would be needed for beginners would make the gameplay choppy.

Oliver has a cursory knowledge of fractions, so it was interesting to watch him work out the fractions in his mind. My daughter Zoey, who is twelve and far more familiar with fractions, noted that even if the math was too hard for Oliver, he was intuiting the game, and he still did well, even when he was in over his head on the math.

For example, once the game progresses past the initial levels, there are power-ups and attacks earned by combining more difficult fractions. There are fractions with different denominators, and even though he didn’t fully understand, he was able to figure it out.

Mlob 5.jpgThough it might seem like a drawback that kids can play the game without fully understanding, I’m going to argue to the contrary. There are pop-ups that explain how the fractions work, and I was happy to see that Oliver used them in how he approached the puzzle.

Moreover, as a mom whose nightly routine involves math facts drills, I was happy to see this app pushing my child’s math knowledge in a fun and engaging way. The type of thinking that Zoey was referring to is a part of the 6th grade Standards, and appears on the higher levels of the game:

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.NS.A.1

Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem.

As an educator and parent, I like that the game extends the knowledge a child may already have. I recommend this for students in grades 3-6, or as a supplement for remediation for older students. It isn’t a teaching tool per se, but we can’t go wrong exposing kids to challenging math concepts. You can check out the trailer here:

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