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Making Algebra Learning Fun & Effective

The Challenge

For K-12 students who want to go to college, algebra is an essential subject.  Many states now make success in algebra a high-school graduation requirement.

But learning algebra is more than just mastering procedures and symbols. It requires the integration of specific knowledge with abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Depending on how these skills are taught, algebra instruction can either be highly engaging and exciting—or dry as dust.

Strategies & Solutions

To make algebra teaching and learning more engaging and effective CAST developed two learning games—MathScaled and MathSquared—for iPads, as a proof-of-concept.

MathScaled is based on a balance-scale format often used in algebra classes to support understanding of equations. The goal is to place shapes of varying weights on a balance scale without tipping the scale.

MathSquared is based on the popular KenKen puzzles, grid-like games that use math operations like addition/subtraction, multiplication/division but also require logic and problem solving skills. The goal is to figure out where numbers appear on the grid to produce reach a predetermined result.

The iSolveIt puzzles were piloted and refined with input from teachers and students at four Boston-area schools: Boston Arts Academy, the Edison K-8 School (Brighton, MA), Tyngsborough (MA) Middle School, and the Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, MA.


In 2013, CAST released both tools through the Apple iTunes store at no charge to educators and students. Since then, the apps have been downloaded over 16,000 times.

In December 2013, the iSolveIt puzzles were featured on Capitol Hill as part of a “Pop-Up” classroom to demonstrate how education technology is transforming the way teachers’ teach and students’ learn. eSchool News featured the pair as “Apps of the Week”. And the Huffington Post named it one of the best “back-to-school” apps for middle schoolers.

Though the apps are no longer available, the resources and learning are still available through the iSolveIt website.

Visit the iSolveIt website

MathSquared and MathScaled were developed with the support of four foundations that are committed to educational improvement: the Oak Foundation, the Intel Foundation, Eastern Bank, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust.

Would you like to partner with us on a project like iSolveIt?

CAST regularly partners with organizations in the public and private sectors to explore challenging questions in education. Our work is made possible by the generous financial support of foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individuals—all partners in the effort to make education more accessible, rewarding, and effective for all through Universal Design for Learning.

Find out more about our partners and funders

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