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Math Central

Hooda aBy now, it should be obvious to just about every teacher and school administrator that the best technique for teaching and learning is to make class time seem like fun and games with as little blackboard work as possible. That’s exactly the idea behind Hooda Math, an online math center that has a slew of HTML-based games that can take a class from counting and identifying numbers to basic algebra, graphing and even some physics. The best part is that it’s all free, although the site does have ads.

The main interface of Hooda Math is simple, straight-forward and functional with a grid of games arranged by type. Think of it as a sampler of the site’s larger library of more than 500 games. The software is organized by grade, math concept dealt with and type of game. At any time you can search for the right game or just nose around and try a few out.

Because they are based on HTML coding, the games will work on just about any computer with a Web connection, from an elderly desktop or Mac to the latest iPad or Chromebook. That is, only if it has an updated browser.

Hooda bSome of the newer games can be downloaded and used locally on either an iPad or Android device. While the site-based online games are free, sometimes these downloadable games cost a dollar or two.

The beauty of Hooda is that some of the games themselves are often thinly disguised knock-offs of popular games, making it easy to entice students to use them. For instance, Happy Birds becomes Flappy Factors where kids control the birds while working on multiplication factors.  Either way, they are meant to be attractive to children and an interactive way to learn and practice math skills.

Unfortunately, the site lacks a consistent look and feel and each game needs to be learned from scratch. Be prepared for kids to require three or four tries before they get the hang of how many of the games work. More detailed instructions or instructional videos would have helped but might have been a turn off to some students.

Each game is aligned with the Common Core Math standards with its CC category and specific skill reference noted at the top of the game’s page. This can streamline preparing class lesson plans but an overall Common Core list or outline with the games that address each area noted would have been a big help in attempting to see where Hooda Math can fit into an entire curriculum.

While just about every game has different levels to strive for, the reporting part of the site is minimalist compared to other math sites, for some activities, like the Math Timed Test applet, Hooda Math does send out an email to teachers when a certain skill level has been achieved. It, however, can neither automatically take the child to the next game in the progression nor drop scores or progress into a school’s gradebook software.

Hooda cOn the downside, some of the games just don’t work well or were inconsistent. When I clicked on the answers on Skater Math, the game didn’t respond, condemning the animated skateboarder to continue to fall on each pass. Others worked fine every time I used them, but I occasionally encountered server errors, which can be frustrating, particularly for a teacher roaming around the classroom trying to give help to struggling students.

Even at their best, the games are displayed in small windows at the center of the screen, which dilutes the impact on the viewer. Full-screen representation would have been a big help.

The site has links to a good variety of tutorial videos that are aligned to the game at hand as well as a bunch that don’t seem to align with the online content. For instance there are some very interesting videos that explain how to solve word problems with linear graphs. Some of the best (at least for small children) have characters dressed in silly costumes in front of a whiteboard to explain the math involved. A hidden bonus is a series of six videos that show the basics of programming.

Ultimately, Hooda Math is a work in progress with the site adding games on a weekly basis. It is aimed more at early education than middle- or high-school math classes, but it presents a great variety of visual problem-solving activities, something that other curriculum services fall short on.

What Hooda Math does, it does well with the ability to teach a class without students ever suspecting they’re learning something important.

B+

Hooda a

Hooda Math

Free with site ads

www.hoodamath.com

 

+ Free access to over 500 math-based games

+ Excellent variety of activities

+ Organized by grade, subject and type of game

+ Good video tutorials

+ Downloadable versions of some games

 

- No way to consolidate scores and report progress

- Lacks automatic progression

- Ad sponsored

 

Economical Alternative

UST_L02If the cost of power and lamps have you shying away from new projectors, Casio has an alternative that uses less power and will never need a lamp change. The XJ-UT310WN ultra-short throw projector uses a red LED, a blue laser and a green phosphor to produce its light instead of an expensive lamp. It uses a DLP imaging target that produces 1,280 by 800 resolution, puts 3,100 lumens on screen and is rated at 20,000 hours of use. Capable of creating up to a 110-inch image without fading, the XJ-UT310WN costs $1,799 (including a WiFi adapter) and can work with Casio’s iPad and Android apps.

Label Everything

QL-720nw-leftsampleWith Brother’s $170 QL-720NW label maker, everything can have a name (and a place in the classroom). The printer is small, connects over a USB cable, WiFi or a wired LAN and you can even print directly from a phone or tablet. Capable of making up to 93 labels per minute, the printer uses thermal technology and creates sharp 300- by 600-dot per inch labels that are precisely cut. It uses 2.4-inches wide label stock and can make banners that are up to 3-feet long. The printer has a school-friendly two-year warranty package and includes a collection of pre-made label templates.

Freebee Friday: Summer Starts Now

SC-LOGOTeachers can start signing up their classes for Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge. The online program rewards kids aged 4 through 14 who read over the summer and is trying to set a new record for the number of books read this summer. The school that logs the most minutes of student reading before school starts will be visited by an author: either David Shannon – for elementary schools – or Gordon Korman – for middle schools.

Freebee Friday: Classroom Makeover

NEC_300If your classroom’s technology is looking a bit ratty, NEC has the answer. The projector and display company is sponsoring a contest where a K-through-12 school will win $25,000. Just enter before May 6 and submit a 1-to-2 minute video explaining why they need new A-V gear. It sounds like a great class project.

In the Ear

E3The era of the over the ear headphone might be over with Califone’s E2 and E3 ear buds offer high-end audio at an enviable price. Rather than bulky and expensive headphones, these ear plugs are economical, fit into small ears and sound surprisingly good. They work with just about any notebook, iPad, phone or digital music player and come with a 3.9-foot cord that includes a built-in volume control. The earphones cost $4.40 and $4.35 for the E2 and E3.

Nerd or Not

Virtualnerd aWith more than 1,500 online video lessons available, do don’t have to be a nerd to use Pearson’s VirtualNerd Mobile Math. The service is available on a free iPad app or via the service’s Web site; look for an Android version this fall. It covers sixth grade math through geometry and prepping for standardized tests. Everything is free and coordinated with the Common Core standards and VirtualNerd is online 24-7, even during the summer.

Budget in Name only

B50The latest notebooks for classrooms not only have the latest features but sport sub-$400 price tags. In many respects, they actually are more along the lines of mainstream systems than budget ones.

Take Lenovo’s B50, which at $399 starts with a 1,366 by 768 15-inch display, but has an optional 1,920 by 1,080 full HD screen.  The B50 can be set up with an AMD or Intel processor and has surprising creature comforts, like Dolby Advanced Audio v2. It includes Windows 7 software and should be available sometime in July, just in time for the new school year.

13852432055_fdb143aacc_oMeanwhile, the Satellite C family budget notebook from Toshiba starts at an enviable $320 price tag with a Celeron processor. At less than an inch thick, it should fit into any backpack and it comes with either a 15.6- or 17.3-inch screen and your choice of an Intel or AMD processor. There are touch-screen models available and all come with at least 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and Windows 8.1.

Thin is In

Asus zero client monitorFor those schools where less is more, Asus has a new CP240 Zero Client Monitor that can easily fit into a thin client landscape. The CP240 is built around a 23.8-inch wide-screen HD LCD monitor and inside is a capable Teradici TERA2321 processor with 512MB of system memory. It can handle any VMware task you throw at it and the system has gigabit Ethernet built in. It costs $529.

 

Lock and Charge

Charge & Sync cThe days of charging a classroom’s tablets one at a time with a pile of separate power adapters are over. With Kensington’s Charge & Sync Cabinet, a teacher can get 10 slates ready for tomorrow’s lessons in a locked cabinet. You can even stack three of the cabinets for a full classroom set of slates. The slate safe has adjustable shelves, cooling fan and costs $700. The company has optional short power cables for everything from the old iPad cord to a micro-USB cable that range from $25 to $80 for a five-pack.   

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.