I paid more than I pay for any app almost ever (a whopping $2.99!) for Slice Fractions, which has a pile of glowing reviews and awards on the app store, and is said to have had design guidance from math ed experts University of Quebec in Montreal.

Well, Leo ran through it in about an hour, and although he had some knowledge of fractions beforehand, I don’t think that it improved his understanding one iota. Unfortunately, what makes the game fun is also its educational downfall; that is, to coin a phrase “you can slice it many ways”: I watched Leo solve almost all of the puzzles, and although there’s a bunch of numbers and fractions in your face, you can solve every puzzle by simple trial and error with no understanding at all of fractions. In fact, that’s pretty much what Leo did. He would try something, hit reset, try something else, hit reset, try something else, … wash, rinse, repeat. Often his solutions were mere luck, with something accidentally sliding across the screen in a way he hadn’t intended.

Another mis-design is that, like most such games, once you solve a given puzzle, there’s no recounting of the solution in any sense at all; it’s out of sight, out of mind. Of course, if I was to sit next to him and talk him through each puzzle, pointing out how it worked, and going back over it, and looking at many different ways of solving it, the educational value would be much greater. (I did do this in some cases.)

It also runs out of puzzles really quickly.

In sum, although Slice Fractions can’t hurt a child’s understanding of fractions, it also, for the most part, can’t help….and at $2.99, approx. 3x the “normal” cost of an app, “can’t hurt but can’t help” isn’t really good enough for me.