Gracie & Friends Jungle Gym

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Gracie & Friends Jungle Gym App Poster Image
Specialized focus promotes fluency with small numbers.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how to match numeral to quantity and vice versa. And, if they play quickly, they'll practice recognizing quantity without having to actually count. All levels include only the numbers 1 through 5, so number-sense learning is limited, but the narrow focus and repetition encourage kids to use subitizing instead of counting. Gracie and Friends Jungle Gym is a specialized tool to help little ones build a strong, fluid mathematical foundation that will help them as they begin to explore early math concepts.

Ease of Play

Game begins with a demo and clear instructions. Tap, drag, and shake the iPad to play.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gracie and Friends Jungle Gym is part of a suite of apps and offscreen activities that aim to teach one very specific math skill: subitizing, or recognizing quantity without having to count. This game covers numbers 2 through 5. The game is very simple for young kids to learn and is supported by outside research. At a certain point during play, kids have to gently shake the device, so make sure they're set up so they can do that safely. On the developer's website, parents can find printable materials and activities that extend learning. 

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What's it about?

In GRACIE AND FRIENDS JUNGLE GYM kids practice recognizing quantity without having to count for numbers 2 through 5. Choose a robot, then drag the requested number of stickers to its belly. Then, group robots by number of dots to create hanging robot chains. To make robots fall from their jungle gym chain onto a trampoline, shake the device and start the next level. Levels increase in difficulty as they introduce higher numbers (up to 5). On a second level, kids match numerals to dot quantity.  Helpful hints along the way gently guide kids who are having trouble.

Is it any good?

Gracie and Friends Jungle Gym does only one small thing, but it does it well. The combination of content (stickers, robots, a jungle gym, a trampoline) and interactivity (dragging and shaking) is whimsical and entertaining. Along the way, kids count and deal with quantity. Subitizing is a great skill that's a basis for having a comfortable and fluid relationship with numbers, and apps that bolster this skill well aren't easy to find. Without time pressure, kids can count the dots and thus not actually subitize, per se. But even if they do count, they still get nice practice with number fluency, and there's great support for kids who need it. Because the game only covers numbers up to 5, kids will play only so many times before getting bored. But the whole app suite, plus printable materials that extend learning off the screen, is all free and supported by third-party research. So, even if the shelf life is on the short side, it's worth the download. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the places where numbers and quantity appear. How many colors are on a traffic light? How many magnets on the fridge?

  • Count everyday items -- such as eggs -- and point out written numerals, such as the 6 written on a half-dozen egg carton.

  • Practice judging quantity quickly and without regard to how items are arranged. Group items and ask kids to quickly say how many are there. Rearrange and ask again.

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