Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Vizulator — The Visual Calculator lets kids see math in action!


Bottom line: Vizulator — The Visual Calculator is a quantity and operations visual modeler for children. Or (in English) it shows kids what math looks like.

If you want to download Vizulator — The Visual Calculator ($2.99 iPhone/iPad), please use the handy little link below so they’ll know who sent you:

Where on earth was this app a couple of months ago when math started to “get real” for my second grader (his words)?  Well, it was out there — I just hadn’t discovered it yet.  Now that we have it, we have an extra tool to help him practice math and build a more comprehensive understanding. Right now, the math that he is learning is on the most basic end of what this app is capable of, but I can see the potential to use it for years to come.

Vizulator, from Planet Brainy Ltd., basically draws pictures of whatever math your child is working on. Each step of an equation shows up in different colors to help the user follow the sequence and really understand what is happening. If your student is having trouble processing numbers on a page, Vizulator gives them a way to help their brains process the operations.

V2I wish that I could speak more fluently about the importance of visual modeling and how our brains process math functions. I can only confidently tell you about using this app from the point of view of a parent.  In testing out this app, I figured the best way to see if it would work for us would be to sit down with my son while he was doing homework and go through the math portion with him using Vizulator.  He was having difficulty with two problems when we started, so we entered the equations into this app to help him walk through them.  The first problem he seemed a little bit iffy on, but you could almost see the light bulb above his head as he watched the second problem come together.

I took my iPad up to the school to show my son’s teacher, to get her opinion on whether it would be a useful tool in her classroom.  Not only did she feel like the Vizulator would be a beneficial method of demonstrating the simple math concepts that they are learning in her class, but she was also very excited about the more advanced operations that she was capable of mapping out. She was so enthusiastic that I “lost” my iPad for an afternoon so that she could share what she had found with some other teachers in more advanced grades.

Visually, this app is not what I would call “exciting” in the way that I have come to look for in children’s apps.  It is clean and easy to read, but perhaps a little boring if it were being directed mostly at younger children. But since the target audience is not limited to younger children, and since there is no "game" aspect to the app, this really shouldn’t be an issue.

V4So, what would I change?  I do wish that the app was capable of doing longer equations.  Currently there appears to be a limit of three parts to each equation.  Also (and this might just be a personal preference), I prefer to input numbers on something resembling a traditional calculator. I found the numbers and function buttons across the bottom of the screen to be a bit cumbersome to use.

This app is exciting, though, for all of those children — and adults — out there who have math anxieties.  Being able to see an equation “happen” in real time really can help lay a stronger foundation for building future math skills.

969058_10201261696842659_1047891411_nKelli has agreed to help Emilie's daughter with math in the years to come because, by the time Emilie's daughter is in third grade, Emilie will be of limited help. Planet Brainy Ltd. is an advertiser at

Originally posted on Smart Apps for Kids.

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