April 28, 2012

Weekend Website #95: AIRR Math

Every Friday, I share a website (or app) that I’ve heard about, checked into, gotten excited to use. This one is a math book and app. Since ‘math’ is by far the most popular search term of readers who seek out my blog, I know you’re going to enjoy this review.


AIRR Math--a math workbook with an app for iPads, iPhones.


1st grade – 8th


Math basics




Just to be clear, I am not a math teacher, though I do have a Masters in Business with a financial minor that required a good facility with mathematical concepts through intermediate calculus. I teach technology and coordinate its integration into my school’s classrooms, including math, and am always on the lookout for fresh, innovative ways to make math fun and effective.

I don’t review a lot of books, but this one–billed as ‘a book of practical math activities’–got me excited. It not only is available in print, but first grade (and more to come, they say) has an app which can be used on an iPad, iPhone, or any Smartphone that can access the App Store. That’s clever and means students can go through the activities in groups on the class set of iPads or at home by themselves. This makes education convenient and 21st century. It’s no secret to teachers that students will play longer and more intensely with educational digital toys like iPads, laptops, iphones, iPods, and more. I’m all for providing content in a manner students will want to use.

Introduced in Texas, AIRR (Assess, Introduce, Review and Retain) Math is activities that reinforce the basics in Numbers and Operations, Patterns and Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis and Problem Solving for Grades 1-8. While the activities focus on assisting students to meet and exceed Texas TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) math standards, they are aligned to the NCTM Content Standards, which means they are applicable to any math program.

The workbooks are activities only–no math instruction–with innovative strategies for encouraging discovery and creativity in the learning process. Each activity is thoroughly explained, and includes Ready-to-Make activity cards, Ready-to-Make transparencies, and practice sheets. All the projects I looked at were done in pairs, groups or as a whole class, a method that decreases the typical anxiety attached to learning new concepts.

If you are teaching math to first graders, you’ll want to purchase the AIRR Math app. It’s large–44.1 MB–where many math apps are less than 5 MB. Be forewarned: The free app provides only a list and discussion on additional fee-based apps for AIRR Math’s basic areas (Numbers and Operations, Patterns and Algebra, Geometry, Measurement, Data Analysis and Problem Solving). For a fee of $1.99 for example, you get 146 activities and 282 activity sheets in Numbers and Operations. All additional apps run from $1.99 to $5.99.

Here are some of my thoughts from a review of the section on Numbers and Operations:

  • This is not a math curriculum, rather math activities that support a variety of curriculums and teaching styles.
  • These are practical, nuts and bolts concepts, the building blocks to math. They are covered in a no-nonsense way so students understand without the confusion of ancillary details. They are not games with wizards and space ships that encourage students to count asteroids. There are no monsters, aliens, talking creatures, bright bulging colors screaming for attention as they ‘teach’ students math.
  • Students AREN’T working individually on a worksheet with their pencil. They work together to understand concepts and get help from each other as they work through the ideas. In a education world where the flipped classroom is the latest pedagogical rage, the idea that students learn from each other is a logical next step.
  • Physical, body movement is involved, a known factor to success in learning
  • The book provides a thorough explanation of how to use each activity to reach the intended result.
  • The pages provide reproducible material for teachers that can be copied and distributed with ease

Here’s an example of one activity

What’s My Coin Value?
Group Size: Whole Class
MATERIALS: What’s My Coin Value Cards (provided)

Cut apart the What’s My Coin Value cards (supplied in the activity book). Distribute cards to students. Instruct the student with Card 1 to read the phrase on the card.
Whoever has the correct response, should read the phrases on their card. Collect cards after each phrase is read.

The over 400 math activities were created by Hazel Russell, a veteran teacher with 34 years of teaching experience in mathematics and a respected authority of Mathematics curriculum development, instruction and alternative assessment strategies for students. She has presented at National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) regional and national conferences in addition to many state and local conferences. She has worked with New Standards, a national consortium of public school districts and state Departments of Education. She has written and reviewed math and algebra programs for major textbook companies, as well as math lessons and curriculum for many schools and school districts, summer school curriculum, and tutoring programs. Mrs. Russell is one of the writers of the “Figure This!” mathematical challenges for families, a project sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

I did have a problem with one of the exercises–a clock activity. It showed two times based on a standard clock face and asked which time was earlier. My first thought was–AM or PM? Then again, maybe I was overthinking it.

Overall, this is a great addition to your math curriculum and your iPad apps. Please take a moment to tell me what you think in the comments.


Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade and author of two technology training books for middle school. She wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller for her agent that should be out this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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