Incredible Numbers by Professor Ian Stewart

App review by
Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Media
Incredible Numbers by Professor Ian Stewart App Poster Image
Beautiful exploration of math beyond classroom; dense text.

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about a variety of math topics that aren't usually covered in school, including patterns of prime numbers, cryptography, infinity, factorials, the mathematics of nature and music, properties of pi beyond circles, and nuanced details of polygons. In experiencing all these topics, they can also read about the biographies of famous mathematical figures throughout history, and pick up some advanced math vocabulary along the way. They can also discover interesting properties about a large set of specific numbers. Though not for every kid, Incredible Numbers by Ian Stewart is a multilayered gateway into the world of advanced mathematical concepts.

Ease of Play

Controls intuitive, and it's easy to navigate, but the content carries a fairly steep learning curve, and in-app supports are tailored to slightly more advanced users.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Incredible Numbers by Professor Ian Stewart contains plenty of interesting math concepts that aren't part of the normal school curriculum, all presented with touch-friendly interactive visualizations. It's a great way to expose kids to some of the wonderful mysteries of math and the history behind them, but some might get overwhelmed by the passages of dense academic text they'll encounter. There's a button to share on social media with no gate or controls, so this app is best for older kids and teens already connected to social media. Read the app's privacy policy to find out more about the types of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

INCREDIBLE NUMBERS BY PROFESSOR IAN STEWART is a very beautiful, interactive reference app which dives into areas of math not covered in the typical school curriculum. Users click through a variety of topics presented with passages explaining the history and nature of the chosen content. Each section also includes an interactive visualization and hyperlinks to bios of historical figures. A few math puzzles and a floating field of interactive special numbers are accessible any time.

Is it any good?

The math topics are fascinating, and the interactive elements bring concepts to life, but the writing is pretty complicated, riddled with tough vocabulary and requiring a lot of background knowledge. Thankfully, the interactive visualizations give those tricky passages some much-needed clarity. In that sense, it may be the best way out there to illuminate these ideas for teens. Even with the beautiful explorations, ultimately this is mostly a read-to-learn experience, probably only fully accessible by those already curious about math or those willing to do some outside reading to supplement.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why math is interesting for its own sake, instead of simply being a tool for doing work and dealing with money.  

  • Discuss why theory, exploration, and curiosity are important for improving our understanding of the world.

  • Start a conversation about where people use math in the real world and where math is used only for fun or intellectual stimulation.

  • Talk about the historical figures in math and science, such as those in the app. Where do they all seem to come from? What kinds of backgrounds do they have? Are they mostly all men, and if so, why? 

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For kids who love math and STEM topics

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