Questimate! App Actually Makes Math Fun


Ask parents about homework, and they'll say one of the hardest tasks they face is convincing a kid who is not math-oriented that math skills really matter out there in the real world.

Having been through this six times myself, with all but one of my kids resisting that message, I’m always on the lookout for new tools that make math fun and interesting.

SF-based Motion Math has created a series of fun games that encourages kids to play with numbers, from early school ages up through high school.

Their latest game–Questimate!–takes one of those real-world math skills head on: Estimation. 

Estimation is the art of estimating size, speed, distance, expense, etc. The game, which is meant for kids aged nine and older, uses a kind of Jeopardy-like format, but the players choose the questions, and the game keeps getting harder the more you play.

You get three "lives" on a quest, so you have to come reasonably close to estimating reasonable answers to progress in the game.

During the extensive beta testing and focus group phase before releasing the game earlier this month, the Motion Math team was somewhat surprised how much kids chose “to pick a lot of challenging questions,” says co-founder Jacob Klein. “They’re curious and intrigued. They want to take on the really tough questions. Games are fun because they are hard. Kids love getting to the point where they are at the edge of their abilities and then push beyond.”

The game is an iOS app that you can think of as a digital board game. You can play it solo, “pass & play” with someone else, or remotely through Apple’s Game Center.

“This is our first social game,” says Klein. “We observed the attention of younger siblings and friends watching their older siblings play over their shoulder. It’s never been fun to watch someone do math homework before, but this is fun.”

As part of testing and refining the game, the Motion Math team tested Questimate! in classrooms and at summer camps.

"We started testing it in math classes where it is the alternative to traditional lessons until we realized we will win that contest easily every time,” explains Klein.

“So we started testing it in afterschool programs instead, where the alternative is playing kickball. Just this month, at lunch at a summer camp, we beat kickball!”

While the initial version of the game is free, you pay at various levels to pursue ever more complex quests. Parents account for roughly three-quarters of the 2.8 million downloads of the company’s games to date, with teachers accounting for the rest.

With Questimate!, students are guessing answers to questions like this one: “How many rabbits would it take to be as tall as the GG Bridge?” (IDK.)

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