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Measure Up! app review

Measure Up! by PBS Kids (2016; iOS and Android) introduces concepts of measurement in a series of activities and videos based on its educational television shows. In a frame narrative, programming “hosts” Dot, Del, and Dee explore an island. Each of three locations on the island highlights a specific type of dimension measurement: “Treetop City” focuses on height and length, “Magma Peak” on volume/capacity, and the “Crystal Caves” on weight. Simple interactive opportunities (indicated with sparkle icons) appear on each screen of the siblings’ journey.

As Dot, Del, and Dee leap from branch to branch, jump over lava, or ride in a mining cart, they come across videos, games, challenges, and “toys” starring characters from Peg + Cat, Dinosaur Train, and Sid the Science Kid. The ten videos are brief clips from the shows exploring — in an entertaining way — an aspect of the featured measurement concept. For example, Peg and Cat use a stick to measure distance as they search for buried treasure marked on a map, but when their stick is washed away by a wave, Peg has the bright idea to measure in Cat’s body-lengths instead. (The audio of some videos is much quieter than in other sections of the app, and a few end with the invitation to visit the “rockin'” PBS Kids website for more.)

Alternating with the videos are a wide variety of games (nineteen in all) offering practice with the measurements: compete in a pterodactyl distance-flying contest, estimate how many pails (or pitchers, or bowls) it takes to fill Peg’s bathtub for a bubble bath, load up a scale with crystals to make the two sides balanced. Each game gradually increases in complexity as you play.

A handful of challenges (specific questions that “check your work”) are interspersed with the games and videos, as are “toys” (exploratory play sections in which you shoot fireworks, create colored sand art, or help a flock of chicks play on a see-saw). Completing activities unlocks treasure chests containing pieces of a character statue.

While you can skip any of the videos/activities and move around the island in any order, playing one of the three substantial “adventures” all the way through unlocks “Statue Island,” where you can access the statues and stickers you have earned.

While Measure Up! repurposes PBS Kids’s TV programming, that repurposing is not done in an arbitrary or obnoxious way, and the added activities make it a useful and engaging tool for practicing math skills. There is an impressive amount of educational content here — especially considering that it’s free. The free, separate Super Vision app for adults tracks a child’s progress through the concepts.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 4.2 and up); free. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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