Back in September, I attended a super secret user feedback panel for a brand new math app called Polyup.
Since then, I’ve been working with them on and off on setting up structures that allow Polyup to be more accessible for the day-to-day teacher and their many goings-ons in their classrooms.
I’ve learned so much from the whole experience. And more importantly, I’ve had a chance to use what I learned about instructional and interface design.
At first glance, Poly appears to be a cute little calculator that incorporates a bit of coding in it’s ‘stacks.’ But some more exploration of the Poly machines reveal that this little character does so much more. A lot of which is still at the very edge of my own understanding.
I’ve been using Poly in my classroom off and on. Whenever there’s a extra 10 or 15 minutes buffer time, or when half my students are absent and my original lesson plan falls through. Or as an activity for the MathCounts club students to do while they wait for the high school leaders to arrive. Mostly, my students have been using the machines like ‘Four Fours’ or ‘Crazy Eights.’ It helps build number sense, strategic numerical planning, flexibility in computational thinking, and reinforces the order of operations, which these kids (I only use Poly in my intervention class) desperately need.
It’s fun, engaging, and the students who can get lost in a traditional classroom has a place to shine. The other students can shine too, of course. It’s a great place to start math conversations (“What makes an even number and even number?” “What does ‘divisible’ mean?”) that can be super boring coming from a math teacher but suddenly becomes fascinating when a cute orange jelly character with big eyebrows leads you to a challenging chip level which only some more math knowledge can help you pass.