Thinkster Math is an iPad based math tutorial program for K-8, aligned with Common Core and based on well-known international math programs such as Singapore Math. Offered in thirty countries and used by thousands of students, it teaches via digital worksheets, video tutorials, feedback from real (human) coaches, and a long-term plan developed with the student that encourages students to learn at their own pace, wherever they are, on a device (the iPad) that they love.
That last item is important — learn at their own pace. Research shows that often students succeed better when their learning is self-directed and self-paced. With Thinkster, students complete their math assignments wherever, whenever, and however it best fits their needs. They receive feedback from a personal tutor, badges for completed activities, game options to keep learning fresh, and prizes for achieving agreed-upon goals.
How it works
- Download the app to your iPad or tablet. One download accommodates all children in the family. Set up an account, either a one-week free trial or the paid option.
- Track student progress by downloading the Parent Insight app.
- Set up separate accounts for each student.
- Each student runs a diagnostic test to quantify their math skills.
- After the pre-test, students are assigned a coach who evaluates the test and calls the parent to discuss a plan for the child’s learning. This can be via phone or Skype.
- The coach creates a personal plan based on student abilities, interests, and goals.
- Students complete worksheets aligned with the goals. As they work, they get immediate feedback and access to videos to help them understand confusing concepts.
- Coaches can play back a video showing how the student arrived at answers.
- Students get regular (weekly or bi-weekly) whiteboard sessions with their coach to review difficult concepts and/or ask questions.
- Students earn points for completing work. These can be traded for gift cards or other prizes.
It’s more like Khan Academy than IXL, with fewer games and more traditional work presented in a fun way.
Video tutorials help students with difficult problems.
When students submit their work, they get personal feedback from their assigned coach. It’s as close to having a teacher there as I’ve seen.
Coaches are qualified math teachers. You can ask them anything about math. If for some reason, you don’t click with who you’re assigned, make a switch.
Thinkster is well-suited to homeschoolers with a robust Homeschool Community to connect kids to each other.
Students can complete lessons without wifi, using downloaded worksheets.
It is worksheet-intensive. If you want to avoid that approach to learning, this may not be the best approach for you.
So far, there are no education accounts where a teacher can enroll all students and track their progress (as you see in Khan Academy). I’m sure that’s coming.
8 Ways to use it in your child’s math education
If you’re a teacher, here are eight ideas on using this to promote and energize your math curriculum:
- to supplement whatever students are doing in the school’s math curriculum. This could include additional detail or another way to do a math problem being discussed in class.
- to enrich and expand on what’s being taught in school, for those kids who are ahead of the class and need a greater challenge.
- as a diagnostic tool, to determine where students are in the math learning continuum and catch them up if needed to the materials being presented in the school math program.
- as an alternative for students who stress over time-sensitive math work; Thinkster lets them complete work on their own schedule.
- as a differentiated option that meets Common Core and many state standards, for students who learn differently.
- as an optional alternative, available when students want more — just can’t get enough of math.
- as a way for students to explore beyond their current math level — let their curiosity fly.
- competitively. The Leaderboards, badges, and prizes appeal to students who are motivated by excellence.
Thinkster Math teaches students based on where their math skills start, not the first page of a math textbook. It’s most popular with students, teachers, and parents who want no artificial grade-level boundaries on what students learn, the only limits being their interest and effort.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.