A simple app with historical leanings that should keep mathematics from becoming a kid’s personal Gitmo.
Sparks, the 22nd-century narrator, is struggling with his math homework—good to know that some things never change. But when his parents run out on an errand, leaving his baby-sitter robot dog in playful mode, Sparks sets off, using a time-machine helmet to uncover the dastardly villain who sicced math on the world. Sparks makes his way back in time, visiting with Einstein, Newton and Al-Khwarizmi. A heavenly feminine voice floats down every now and then to deliver bare-bones explanations on such topics as relativity, gravity and positional numbers, but mostly, Sparks handles the narration and voices, some more successfully than others, as he occasionally skews singsong-y or whiny. The colors are rich, and the 1970s-comic-book-style characters have personality. While the fingertip engagement with the story is elementary—mostly just triggering stiff animations—it’s pleasingly archaic. The gist here is that nobody invented mathematics and that there is no one to cudgel into submission and take it all back, but that math is a tool—one that comes in handy when Sparks’ Chronoport helmet’s calculator breaks and he must do the math to get home. Once explained properly and given real-life application, math shows its stuff.
Math taken to its fundamentals in a fun, well-paced story and with enough of a challenge to maintain steady interest. (iPad storybook app. 7-12)