Comparing Zager and Zimba

Saw a couple of interesting reads in the last couple of weeks, and they don’t have much overlap.

Tracy Johnston Zager wrote a piece on math apps for kids:

My Criteria for Fact-Based Apps

and Jason Zimba, one of the people behind the Common Core Math curriculum, wrote about how he’s helped his own kids with math here:

Can Parents Help With Math Homework? YES

Giving the timing, I assume the 2nd article was at least in part written to clarify some points in this article from a few weeks ago

Back Off Parents: It’s not your job to teach Common Core Math when helping with homework

where his quote:

“The math instruction on the part of parents should be low. The teacher is there to explain the curriculum,” said Zimba.

got a little more publicity than usual.

What caught my eye in Zimba’s more recent piece was this paragraph:

“Parents can also help at home with skill building and fluency practice—things like memorizing basic math facts. When it comes to skills, practice is essential. It helps students to have someone to flash the cards or pose calculations to them. I have made flashcards that we use at home, and my kids sometimes use digital apps like Math Drills.”


Particularly because Zager’s piece went in nearly the opposite direction when it came to math apps – for example:

“I don’t want to see naked number drills, especially not for 3rd graders. Flashcards embedded in silly or glitzy contexts are still flashcards. I want to see mathematical models like arrays, groups, hundreds charts, and number lines. ”

It certainly appears from the screen shots on the Math Drills app page:

Math Drills on the Itunes web page

that this app wouldn’t meet many (if any) of the criteria that Zager looks for in a math app for kids.


Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 2.31.13 PM


Anyway, both articles are fascinating reads. It is interesting to me to see influential people in math education having ideas that seem almost almost totally opposite of each other.

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