I’ve been learning about students’ thinking about fractions while observing them using VersaMate, a fraction app for the iPad from ETA Hand2mind (www.hand2mind.com/versamate) as a way to practice equivalent fractions. The free version of the app provides two activities in a game format. The game aspect of the app is for two players (one of whom could be the computer) to take turns matching the problem provided to the answers provided. The game part of the activity involves solving problems to move on the game board in order to capture the “prize.”
In the first activity the students identify fractions that are represented by a circle model with a the specific fractional part shaded. Identifying equivalent fractions by finding the missing number that makes the fraction equivalent is the second activity on the free app. The type of thinking that is involved with solving these problems varies depending on what part of the fraction is missing. Four problems appear in this game with a different part of the fraction missing; it might be the numerator in the first fraction, it might be the denominator in the second fraction. I like this part of the app because I’ve noticed that students have to use their understanding about fractions in order to be able to solve the variety of the problems.
The purchased component of the VersaMate app ($4.99) has the same game format as the free version. The first choice of activities are Equivalent Fractions with four options: Whole Numbers as Fractions, Improper Fractions and MIxed Numbers, Decompose Fractions and Decimals (with denominators of 10 or 100). The second choice of activities under the title Compare and Order Fractions are: Compare like denominators, compare lie numerators, and compare unlike fractions. When playing the Decompose Fractions and Decimals game, the students are provided with fractions with a denominator of 10 or 100 and need to match it to the decimal equivalent. If a student makes an incorrect match they are taken to a page that shows a number line labeled with fractions and decimals equivalents, with the correct relationship indicated. The third set of activities involves adding ad subtracting like fractions. This set of activities has five options which addresses fractions less than one and mixed numbers. Multiplying and dividing fractions are the fourth and fifth set of options in the purchased component of VersaMate.
Each option in the set of activities includes an opportunity to land on a prize. When the prize has been captured, there is a bonus question that has students apply their understanding in a slightly different way than they used to capture the prize.
There is not an option to record the student’s work progress. When working with students there are several options: students can play against each other, or against the computer, or against myself. When students are playing, I ask probing questions in order to learn about their thinking and how they are solving the problems. The app could be used by the student independently but I would then want to have some sort of exit slip in order to learn what the student “got out of” doing the app.
Overall, I’ve found the app well worth the $4.99. Students are always eager to work with this app and find it engaging to use the app with a classmate.