Algebra, Chocolate-Covered Broccoli and Insanity

As all of you know by now, I spend quite a bit of my time reviewing ed tech products.  And as I’ve been reviewing educational apps I’ve always wondered what would happen when the day came when the material got too hard for me and I struggled doing the work.

I had a fantasy that this would happen with Physics or Chemistry….maybe AP Calculus prep or Advanced German.

I didn’t expect it to happen with Algebra I.

Now, I’ll confess that it’s been a number of years since I took my Algebra classes.  But I’ve always prided myself on using the occasional algebraic equation to figure something out in my everyday life.  But yesterday I reviewed an Algebra app that really stuck it to me.  It wasn’t really an instructional app.  It was an app that had multiple-choice quizzes interleaved with unrelated games….the proverbial chocolate-covered broccoli.  The learner was required to pass the quiz with at least 80% accuracy in order to access the game.  (I actually liked that they took a stab at Mastery Learning.)

Mind you, this app is targeted at middle school and early high school students.  But damn if I couldn’t pass the first quiz with 80%!  What the heck?  I got out my pencil and paper, worked the problems (to the best of my memory, at least) and some of my answers weren’t even in the ballpark of the answers available in the questions.  And the very worst part?  THERE WAS NO FEEDBACK FOR CORRECT AND INCORRECT ANSWERS.  That’s right.  I didn’t know which answers I was getting wrong.  But in order to test the app I needed to get through the quizzes!!  So I then proceeded through this haphazard guessing game of answers, just trying to reach 80%.  And eventually that paid off.

Fine, that’s all well and good.  I tested the app, which was my goal.  I definitely experienced firsthand how frustrating it must be for students when they encounter a badly designed app like this…all trial and error and no feedback.  But what a humbling experience….dare I say humiliating?

I went back to the page in the App Store.  What was the experience of others?

Oh.  Look here.  Actual Algebra teachers have reviewed this app.  And what’s this?  Their biggest complaint is that SOME OF THE ITEMS ARE INCORRECT?!?!?


I sure wish I had read that before I started…

The name of the app reviewed here has been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent.


About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
This entry was posted in App Reviews & Recs, Instructional Design, STEM, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Algebra, Chocolate-Covered Broccoli and Insanity

  1. Alyssa says:

    Well I needed that levity today but I am sure you didn’t need that frustration yesterday! C’mon… dish on the app! 🙂

  2. Mair says:

    I have to say…this made me chuckle! I am imagining the humbling experience of not being able to pass the quizzes (and I like the mastery learning aspect too!) only to learn that some of the answers are incorrect! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall while this review was in progress 🙂

  3. Karen. This is the first one of your blogs I have read. I enjoyed it. And I just got back from errands and I bought chocolate covered banana chips. They are probably better than chocolate covered broccoli. But I shouldn’t assume that. I had chocolate covered bacon at the Big E about a month ago and I’m sold on it.

  4. Houston, we have a quality control problem…

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