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Tiggly Chef: Addition app review

Tiggly’s educational apps can be played alone or with the corresponding Tiggly-brand silicone counting, letter, or shape toys. The engaging Tiggly Chef: Addition (2014; iOS and Android) makes a natural follow-up to Tiggly Adventure, inviting you to add numbers up to ten in combinations of units.

Select the first level from the menu, and an impressively mustachioed chef welcomes you. “I am the master chef of Tiggly Town! Do you think you have what it takes to help me in my kitchen? I have confidence in you that, one day, you can be a great chef!” he exclaims, with an exaggerated accent à la Chef Louis.

In this first level, brightly colored illustrations provide the correct amount of a specified ingredient. Tap or drag items to place them in a bowl, singly or in units up to five. The chef adds as you go (“1, adding 2, adding 2 makes 5 all together”) and offers encouragement and gentle corrections.

Each recipe requires five ingredients. (Just as I was wondering what recipe could possibly include bananas, cherries, pineapple, salami, and cucumbers, the chef unveiled the very silly plated dish: “Sally Salami Banana Split.”) Tap to “eat” your dish; the chef will then ask for your opinion, which you can record via your device’s microphone.

Once you’ve successfully completed several recipes, you unlock the next level, which “turn[s] the heat up a bit.” Not only are you now (literally) cooking with gas, you must swipe left or right to find the correct ingredient. As before, the ingredients are given to you in the correct groupings. If you take too long to add ingredients or make mistakes in selecting them, your dish may begin to burn. In the final level, you swipe to locate the right amount of the right ingredient. If you need five orange slices, for example, attempting to drag five to the pot from a group of eight isn’t gonna cut it. The numbers of ingredients in each grouping gradually increase as you progress through the three levels.

Tap the chef’s cookbook on the kitchen counter to select a specific recipe; each level offers ten recipes, plus the option to create up to five of your own. The music, sound effects, and narration can be turned off/on at any time from the locked settings menu, as can the text (for a digits- and images-only presentation). Nine language options are offered.

Because you can arrive at the correct number of requested items by combining units in various ways, the app encourages flexibility and number fluency when adding. The jolly chef, kid-pleasingly wacky recipes, and high-energy music and sound effects make for entertaining math practice.

One caveat: it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that ingredients don’t have to be added individually, which in turn makes completing any recipe take forever (“1 and 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 and 1 makes 5 all together”) and doesn’t do a lot for nascent adding skills. In retrospect, this unit-adding concept seems obvious, but the app doesn’t spell it out for you in the text, narration, or settings section, and instead seems to assume familiarity with other Tiggly apps — so maybe not so obvious after all.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 8.0 or later) and Android devices (2.3 and up); free. Recommended for preschool and primary users. Tiggly Chef: Subtraction is also available.

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. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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