Picky Kid Rating: 3.8
In Monkey Math School Sunshine, preschoolers can learn math concepts at the beach with an energetic monkey. We love the activities and concepts presented in this game, and it’s been a popular one in our house. It’s great she’s learning math, but we get a bit tired of the choppy and annoyingly enthusiastic voiceovers…
When you first open this app, you’ll come to a start screen where you’ll need to set up at least one player account. Up to three player accounts can be added, which is great for sharing this game with siblings or friends. The downside is that it cannot be played without setting up an account, so be prepared to help your child enter their name the first time.
There is a “For Grown Ups” settings area (protected by two finger swipe actions) which allows you to change settings for individual players via a “Player Settings” tab. You can turn music on or off (actually a global setting that affects all players), turn on or off various activities, and manually adjust the difficulty for each player, if desired. We use the game’s automatic difficulty adjustment, called Knack, that adapts the challenge level as the game is played, and it seems to work quite well. To get out of the settings area, tap the home icon in the top left. (BTW there’s no language selector, this game is available in American English only.)
OK, let’s assume you’ve entered the player’s name and are ready to go! A voiceover will prompt you: “Touch your name to play” — which of course depends upon the child being able to recognize their name when it’s written, or to remember the position of their name in the set of three “player” buttons. It would be nice to add a color cue to help kids remember which name is theirs (all players buttons are the same color right now).
Once you’ve tapped a player name, you’ll jump right into activities! There are ten different math-related activities that may be presented, depending on the player’s settings. These are:
- Quantity Recognition: Pop bubbles containing a quantity of objects
- Number Recognition: Pop bubbles containing a certain numeral
(These are both called “Number Pop” on the settings screen)
- Addition/subtraction: Solve equations with numbers up to 5
- Connect the dots: Tap numbers in order
- Writing: Tracing numerals by following a model
- Shapes: Find the shape with the given number of sides
- Fill in the blank: Drag numbers into blanks to complete a series
- Patterns: Drag items into blanks to continue a pattern
- Less/More with items: Pop a bubble that has less or more objects
- Less/More with numbers: Pop a bubble with a number that is bigger or smaller
(These are both called Less/More on the settings screen)
Activities are presented randomly, and a voiceover provides instructions for each activity. You must wait for the instructions, and for the game to be completely set up, before you can start playing. Depending on the activity, you will need to tap or drag to complete the problem. In most activities, it’s pretty intuitive, but on the Patterns, Addition/subtraction, and Fill in the blank activities, the answer must be dragged into its position. Once you figure this out, it’s a good thing; it allows kids to tap objects to hear what they are before making a selection. When you make a wrong choice, it’s not a big deal. Either nothing will happen, or the monkey (who’s visible in most activities) will shake his head and provide a gentle uh-uh. When you finish an activity, you’ll get positive re-inforcement: An encouraging word, flips by the monkey, or both. After three or four activities, you’ll win a prize for your aquarium — the equivalent of many kids app’s “sticker” reward system.
We think the activities in this app are great! There are lots of nice touches. For example, in the addition/subtraction activity, there’s a visual representation of the problem given below the numbers, so kids can count to solve the equation if they wish. We like it that this game focuses on both quantities and numerals. You may be asked to recognize the number 4 or a set of four. Also, in the bubble popping activities, a numeric counter keeps track of how many bubbles you’ve popped.
The illustration and design is a mixed bag. The monkey is cute, though a little cartoonish, and his animations are pretty good. The animation on the baby turtle, however, is somewhat awkward, as is the animation of the swash coming up the beach, mainly because it comes from the right side of the screen, which is not very natural feeling. The numbers are quite brightly colored, and we’re not crazy about the palette, but a good thing about these colors is that they’re used consistently — for example “3” is always orange, and may help kids with number recognition.
The weakest part of the app, in our picky opinion, is the voiceovers. We find the voice itself (sort of a nasal and overly enthusiastic male voice) a bit annoying to begin with, but our real complaints are with the voiceover timing and its choppiness. There are times when it is difficult to hear the voiceovers because the monkey is saying oo oo oo at the same time. There are also times when the encouraging voice at the end an activity comes too quickly, overlapping another prompt. Also, there’s no way to repeat voiceover instructions if you didn’t hear them (written instructions may be on the screen, but that doesn’t help kids who can’t read yet!) The “choppiness” we’re talking about is the lack of fluidity in the voiceovers. It sounds like instructions were recorded in pieces, and when they’re put back together, they sound robotic, e.g. “You popped” “Six” “bubbles”, or “That’s right! A” “Triangle” “has” “Three” “sides”. The music is ok. It’s a somewhat caribbean-inspired loop that can get tiring, but is at a reasonable volume level. It can also be turned off in the settings.
Overall, Monkey Math School Sunshine is a good app for teaching preschoolers early math skills. As annoying as we find the voiceovers, they don’t seem to bother our picky kid. (Maybe she’s not so picky after all!)Review: Monkey Math School Sunshine iPad App,
Monkey Mathschool Sunshine
Played on: iPad 2, iOS6