Lions, Tigers and Fractions – UofA releases AnimalWatch app to help kids build math skills

The University of Arizona recently released their mobile version of AnimalWatch, a Web-based pre-algebra program to help students build math skills as they learn about endangered and invasive species around the world.
AnimalWatch was originally designed to help visually impaired children build math skills and now it has evolved into a mobile application. The program was developed by UA professor from the School of Information, Science, Technology Carole Beal, and was supported by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science. Beal and collaborators Jane Erin and L. Penny Rosenblum of the UA College of Education were able to make the AnimalWatch software accessible for students with limited or no vision.
Beal, began AnimalWatch in 1997 when she was at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Along with colleague Beverly Woolf, Beal sought out a way to get students interested in learning about math without becoming bogged down by just numbers.
“A lot of kids find math intimidating and boring and we tried to find the topic that engaged them. One thing teachers thought would be attractive for everybody would be unusual animals,” Beal said. “That’s a good choice because the whole question about the impact of global climate change and the environment has become more and more topical since that time.
uofa animanl app Rhino
The app starts off with three sets of word problems – based on animals like the great white shark, snow leopard, polar bear and poison frog – that involve a math topic such as basic arithmetic, fractions, mixed numbers or unit conversion. Built-in videos and slideshows help students learn to solve problems. Skill Builders let students race the clock while they practice multiplication and division facts, reducing fractions, rounding, math vocabulary and more. Students get immediate feedback on their work, and detailed reports show their progress.
No modules are expected to be released for subsequent grade levels however Beal said, “I would love to create more modules but will need additional funding to accomplish this task.”
UA animalwatchappThe app is now available to the public via iTunes. For the Web version, visit AnimalWatch.
Photos provided by U of A School of Information