Ben and Chloe both received android tablets for their birthdays in July which were a complete lifesaver on our long journey to France. Both tablets have super effective safeguarding measures and we are really concious of the amount of time they are allowed to use them for. For the most part I want the time they are using their tablets to be constructive – playing games which promote learning, challenge their thinking and problem solving skills or helping them with their reading etc. Angry Birds, whilst entertaining, of course does none of them above.
Yorkshire Bank’s Count Me In 123 Number Chums app, available on both apple and android devices, has been launched to support parents in helping their children to learn basic numeracy skills before starting primary school and we were asked to give it a try!
New research claims that nearly three-quarters of parents in the UK think their children should be learning basic numeracy skills prior to starting primary school and I can’t say I disagree. Amy is not yet two years old but is already becoming aware of numbers and I’m keen to encourage this. Of course I’m not about to sit down with her and ask her to start completing maths worksheets however counting objects with her and number songs are a great starting point. There’s a lot of pressure on little ones in primary school these days so anything which gives them a little head start without them even realising it is a bonus in my book.
At 4 Chloe has just started Reception and is a keen learner. (I think she might have the potential to be a bit of a swot in years to come). She’s already quite confident with numbers to 10 so I expected that the Count Me In 123 app would be a hit with her.
Count Me in 123 is a pre-school programme specifically created by Yorkshire Bank to support you in developing the initial building blocks for mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem solving. This isn’t just a “learn to count” app. Maths is all about “building blocks”, you are constantly learning new things and building on what you already know – mathematical reasoning and problem solving are vital skills, not just in the classroom but for life.
Although the app has been developed by Yorkshire Bank the only branding is a pair of small images in the top right corner of the home screen. You won’t find any advertising or in app purchases. I’m always very conscious of the risk of in app purchases with little ones who are a bit tap happy and don’t actually know what they’re clicking on so gold star right there Yorkshire Bank.
From the outset the Count Me In 123 app is bright and appealing without being garish and irritating as I think children’s apps often can be.
In the top left corner of the screen you’ll find a section specifically for grown ups – this accessed by answer a simple maths question. The grown ups section explains the purpose of the app and invites you to follow along on social media as well as giving you the option to turn the sound off. I love this!
As you can see on the picture of the homepage above, the app is split into three sections each with its own friendly looking character.
The main focus of this game is to match shapes – the question is written on the screen, voiced by rabbit and also a clue is given in rabbit’s thought bubble. Even if you can’t read the words and have the sound turned off you’d still be able to play this game just by looking at the pictures. Rabbit shows you the shape she is thinking of and then asks you to find a matching shape. What I particularly liked about this game is that you’re not looking for an identical image – just a matching shape. So whilst Rabbit might have a picture of a purple triangle in her thought bubble, you are looking for a triangular shaped sandwich. This puts the focus heavily on the shape itself and encourages children to notice shapes in their own environment. It also helps them to understand that a square is a square, no matter what size, colour or position it is in.
At first Chloe wasn’t so keen on this game, claiming “It’s too hard” however she quickly realised what she was meant to be doing and quite enjoyed it. If you make a mistake, Rabbit gives you an “Ooops try again” and you get another chance. It’s worth noting that if you decide to play the same game again immediately after the questions will be different – not just the same shapes in the same older. Another big plus point there.
This was by far Chloe’s favourite game which she went back to time and time again. The game starts with Monkey counting to ten. Unprompted, Chloe joined in with the counting saying each other the numbers out loud. The Let’s Count game focuses on 1-1 correspondence (which is basically being able to count objects). The objects appear in the tree (apples, birds – you get the picture) and Monkey asks you to count how many there are before offering a multiple choice answer of consecutive numbers (eg if there are three apples it might give you the numbers 2, 3, 4 to choose from). After a couple of go’s things are ramped up a bit and you get an extra number in the answer to challenge you. One of the things I liked most about this was that Chloe is able to touch the pictures whilst she counts them (this is an important part of developing 1-1 correspondence) without it upsetting her game. If you go straight back into the same game (which Chloe did several times) you get the same pictures (birds, bees etc) but a different number of them.
Big & Small
This game focuses on spatial awareness. Can you help Croc to find the bigger carrot? This game does need you to either have someone to read the question or to have the sound on or you won’t know whether to go big or small. The game starts of simply offering two pieces of fruit or veg and asks you to find the bigger / smaller of the two. As it moves on additional challenge is added by showing three pieces of fruit or veg. I think this was probably the game we liked least – it seemed to be the most obvious, and didn’t really offer up as much challenge as the other two. It would have been great if it added in the additional challenge of perhaps ordering the three pieces from smallest to largest.
All in all we thought the app was fabulous – at 6 Ben is pretty much too old for it and whilst he liked having a little look at it with me I doubt it is an app he will go to through choice on his own. Chloe on the other hand really enjoyed it and I know she will go back to it in the future, particularly the Let’s Count section. It will be interesting to see how Amy gets on with the app in another 6-12 months.
Of course we don’t want our little people absorbed with screens all day so I’m really thrilled that Yorkshire Bank have gone for a really rounded approach with this one and have created some lovely activity sheets
to go along with the app. Featuring each of the Number Chums the sheets focus on number recognition and formation, recognising shapes and comparing sizes. Chloe, who as I have mentioned has the potential to be a bit of a swot, jumped straight in with the sheets and absolutely loved them. They were pitched at just the right level so as to offer her a little bit of a challenge but also to mean she could do them without my help. I loved that the purpose of the sheets is clearly explained with a note to parents as well. The worksheets make a great addition to the Count Me in 123 programme.
Overall, as a parent and a primary school teacher, I’m really impressed with this offering from Yorkshire Bank – it has been really well thought out and delivered and I hope they continue to update it and too it as time goes by, perhaps extending it into options for school age children as well.
*Thanks to Yorkshire Bank for providing us with a new tablet to try out the app on. All thoughts and opinions remain our own*