Zap Zap Math - K6 Math Games

App review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
Zap Zap Math - K6 Math Games App Poster Image
Science-themed math practice drills are hit or miss.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can practice their math skills, including number facts, algebra, geometry, shapes and telling time. They can also practice solving puzzles and using logic.

Ease of Play

Some of the activities don't have clear instructions and there's no help available when kids get stuck. In fact, they frequently don't show the correct answer so it's hard for kids to correct their mistakes. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

Kids earn coins that they can use to build a virtual spaceship. The free version of the app has a link to the premium subscription with no parent gate.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zap Zap Math - K6 Math Games is a collection of math activities geared toward kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade. They are aligned to Common Core standards so most kids should find that they match up to what they are studying in school. Younger kids will likely need help reading directions and menu options. Although the app is free, it's more of a trial than a substantial experience. Parents should plan on purchasing an annual subscription for $9.99 per user profile which allows access to all of the games/activities and online reporting in a parent account. All of the activities have a short tutorial, but these are not always clear. Once the activities start, there is no way to get help, no prompting, and (in most cases) no way to find out what the correct answer was supposed to be. Kids are often told to "think harder" when they make a mistake. Users can choose from several languages. Although each profile is assigned a grade level, kids can access content from all grade levels, which may be confusing for younger kids. Each profile can be accessed from any of the platforms, so kids can use on their computer, tablet, phone, etc. This review pertains to the premium version of the game. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the information collected and shared.  

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What's it about?

ZAP ZAP MATH - K6 MATH GAMES is a collection of science and space-themed math activities (some games and some more like drills) for kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade. The activities, tied to the Common Core standards, cover topics such as shapes, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and telling time. Many of them build on each other, so first and second graders will see similar activities around shapes, for example, but with added complexity. Each topic/math skill in each grade has four activities: training, accuracy, speed, and mission. The four activities are grouped around a theme, such as number basics, but may cover different skills, such as rounding decimals, using word to express equations, and creating equations to solve a problem. Only the speed activities have a high-pressure timer, although some of the others will eventually time out if kids don't respond. While the first three activities tend to be drill-based, the missions tend to be more puzzle-based. Even the drills are themed, such as helping to rebuild a rocket, making toys, and reanimating a Frankenstein character. Kids earn stars and coins for each level completed and use them to unlock rooms, characters, and decor for a virtual spaceship.

In addition to the math activities, there are tools for parents and teachers. They can access a list of the standards covered and click through to see which activities touch on those standards. Through a web portal, they can access a detailed "report card" of each child's progress. They can also create quizzes to test kids on the skills they have been practicing. 

Is it any good?

For practicing specific skills, this app is solid, but some activities are so far off the mark as to turn kids off entirely. Zap Zap Math - K6 Math Games has a lot to recommend it. Most of the drill games are engaging and are well-designed to make practice more fun, and many of the missions are fun for kids to figure out and solve. There are great parent tools for watching what kids are learning and it's helpful that kids can access their profiles across devices. Where things fall apart is in the lack of proper tutorials and prompting for incorrect answers. The tutorials typically give vague instructions and then ask kids to solve the problem. If they get it right, they can play; if not, they get the same instructions and another chance, but there's no opportunity to learn. Worse, some of the activities are either not appropriate for the grade or too confusing in general. For example, The missions for the first grade shape skill, for example, require kids to solve "equations" that involve adding/subtracting different colored shapes, but without actually mentioning an equation in the directions. The instructions tell kids to solve the pattern and to "pay attention to the numbers and colors." From this, kids need to figure out that a blue shape plus a red shape red equals a purple shape AND that a circle (1 side) plus a triangle (3 sides) equals a square (4 sides), and there's no hint system if kids are stuck. There are also some issues that seem to be more of a poor translation across cultures (such as the inability to choose a 12-hour clock in the United States), but they still make for a confusing experience for kids. Is there enough great content to make the subscription worthwhile? For most families, yes. But do expect to do some handholding through some activities and to possibly skip a few others entirely. This is a better choice for kids who have a solid grasp of the techniques but just need to practice to get it down.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how we use the math from Zap Zap Math - K6 Math Games in our every day lives. Share some examples (calculating a tip on a restaurant bill, figuring out if you have enough money in a store, etc.). 

  • Talk about using educational apps. Is this app good for learning? Why or why not? What do you think you can learn?

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