I don’t even really know how to begin here. For the last three years I’ve been working on a secret little project that I wasn’t allowed to talk about in public (NDA). I’ve been designing digital games for learning algebra in my (ha ha) free time. The last couple months have been an absolutely insane flurry of activity as we approached the launch date and as a result, I haven’t posted much. Finally I can tell you that I’m no longer a wannabe game designer. I’ve designed four game apps that are now out in the iPad App store! I’m out of the closet and able to talk about it!

There are three years of stories to tell here about the development process, but I’m still recovering from launch week. So if you’re dying to see, here are the apps:

Algeboats Lite is a taste of our resource management game for learning how to evaluate expressions. [Note: Full version is not yet available.]

Algeburst: Topics in Algebra is a classic match-3 game for simplifying expressions, solving simple equations and inequalities, and using exponent rules.

Algeburst: Topics in Arithmetic is a classic match-3 game for pre-algebra arithmetic, including signed numbers, fractions, decimals, and order of operations.

Algeburst Lite will give you 12 free levels to try out the game (6 levels of arithmetic, 6 levels of algebra).

To see videos and screenshots from the games, please head on over to the Facebook pages: Algeburst or Algeboats and give us a LIKE!

This is a short TED Talk by Rob Reid (The $8 billion iPad) that tries to infuse a little “reasonability test” into our blind belief in the numbers provided by those with self-interest … in this case, the music/entertainment industry.

There are several examples that you could turn into signed number addition or subtraction problems. In my favorite example (about 2:57 in the video), Reid uses what he calls “Copyright Math” to “prove” that by their own calculations, the job losses in the movie industry that came with the Internet must have resulted in a negative number of people employed.

Here’s the word problem I’d write:

In 1998, prior to the rapid adoption of the Internet, the U.S. Motion Picture and Video Industry employed 270,000 people (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Today, the movie industry claims that 373,000 jobs have been lost due to the Internet.

[Prealgebra] There are many ways to interpret this claim. If all these jobs were all lost in 1999, how many people would have been left in the motion picture industry in 1999? If the 373,000 jobs were spread out over the last 14 years, then on average, how many jobs were lost each year? Using this new “annual job-loss” figure and no industry growth, how many jobs would have been left in 1999? Can you think of other ways the quoted figures could be interpreted? Use the Internet to see if you can find out how many people are employed in the motion picture industry today. [Prealgebra]

[Intermediate Algebra] If the job market for the motion picture and video industry grew by 2% every year (without the Internet “loss” figures), how many people would be employed in 2012 in the combined movie/music industries? How many jobs would have been created between 1998 and 2012 at the 2% growth rate? If the job market grew by 5% every year (without the Internet “loss” figures), how many people would be employed in 2012 in the combined movie/music industries? How many jobs would be created between 1998 and 2012 at the 5% growth rate?

One of my former students (who is still a Twitter user) pointed me to this fantastic animation of powers of 10 meters, called “Scale of the Universe 2.” I think you’ll appreciate the design and relevance of the objects the authors, Cary and Michael Huang, use to help the user to understand the relevance of scale. Just like Powers of 10, you can zoom from the smallest part of a cell to the edges of the universe.

The authors have a collection of science- and math-oriented animations at HTwins.net that might be worth checking out too. They also have a clever little game called Get to the Top (with 82 variations).

P.S. If you’ve never seen the 1977 film, Powers of 10, it was a really incredible movie for its time and you can see it on YouTube. Another animated version of this film can be found at the Powersof10 website.

The “colored counter” method is an old tried-and-true method for teaching the concept of adding signed numbers. However, to show subtraction with the colored counter method has always seemed painful to me … that is, until I altered the method slightly.

Now all problems are demonstrated within a “Sea of Zeros” and when you need to take away counters, you can simply borrow from the infinite sea. Voila! Here’s a short video to demonstrate addition and subtraction of integers using the “Sea of Zeros” method. You can print some Colored Counter Paper here.