Marty Esterman is a former middle school math teacher who has created two apps that are designed to increase students’ fluency in simple math skills.
His apps, Multiplication Blocks and Addition Blocks, are similar to a combination of better known games Candy Crush and Tetris, and give students a chance to strengthen their basic math skills.
“I’d always been looking for ways to bring games into my classroom,” Esterman said.
In his 12 years of teaching, he said he believes it is important to make math fun for his students.
Esterman began his career as a software engineer before becoming a teacher, and he used his software knowledge to create the apps. He was aware of the disadvantages the students faced when they were tested for speed and wanted to open new doors to learning opportunities.
“I feel that fluency is key for students to open the door to higher orders of mathematics,” Esterman said.
In 2010, Esterman first nurtured his idea of creating apps by starting Addition Blocks. Its original purpose was to teach students to add integers. The game won the 2012 STEM National Video Game Design Challenge, and shortly after, Esterman started creating Multiplication Blocks, which was finished in November. Esterman takes pride in the fact that while his games are beneficial, they do not teach or drill their users.
“If they’re spending so much mental energy on simple multiplication, then they’ll never have the mental energy to do harder math. It lowers their confidence,” he said.
Esterman stepped down from his position as a teacher and is currently pursuing his app ideas full time. He is currently working on a research project that will gather more concrete data in the upcoming school year.
“According to other teachers, kids love it and are progressing. With children so tech-savvy, they really benefit from games like this.” Esterman said. “I believe math can be fun. Teachers have so much on their plates. It’s difficult to find new ways to help their students. Hopefully through this, teachers will save a lot of planning time.” Esterman hopes to create more games in the future, and has five or six ideas that he hopes to develop into apps. For more information on Esterman’s games, visit his blog at blog.fluency-games.com.