Product Review of Money Pieces, by MLC
Money Pieces, by MLC offers on-screen currency manipulatives (available as a free iPad or web app). Access images of U.S. coins as well as a dollar and choose between the standard view or the area model. The area model displays rectangles, which represent the value of each piece in terms of cents. Clear directions for using basic tools such as grouping, duplicating, and writing can be found in the information section. To hide images that can be revealed in a click, use the shade tool. Make an easy conversion with the exchange tool; this tool will exchange selected items for a coin or dollar of your choice. Writing or typing equations on the screen adds a layer to help explain and understand.
Elementary educators will love Money Pieces, by MLC as a demonstration tool for modeling currency problems either as a whole group with the web app or in small groups on the iPad. Money Pieces can be used for rotated centers. If a teacher has created a grouping of coins, then each group visiting that center could display an equivalent value using different coins and cover their creation with one of the offered shades. Teachers who employ class currency can also use this tool for learners to display their totals and use the app to prove they have enough money to exchange for their token at the class store. The area tool is a smart addition for extending currency lessons to upper elementary grades, as the visual representation of values is perfect for modeling fraction or decimal conversions. Kids can model borrowing for subtraction by breaking down values using the exchange tool and regroup to larger pieces to demonstrate equivalent values.
Money Pieces, by MLC seems to be designed with teacher demonstration in mind, however, over time and after given examples and guided instruction, learners may be able to use the app independently to model problems. The youngest of kids will need to rely more on classroom teacher direction, while upper elementary learners can confidently use the app to find their own creative solutions. Although the exchange tool easily models correct conversions, the calculation is completed by the app instead of allowing for student investigation. The side panel only identifies value as whole number cents and doesn’t have a toggle to display the values as a decimal part of a dollar. This feature limits use to the lower elementary grades.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Graphics, although simple, are true to life, and tools are fairly easy to use. Students will not be enticed to linger because of minimal functions and a lack of activities.
Curriculum and Instruction
The area feature allows for multiple methods of instruction, and the exchange tool widens the window of application. The absence of activities limits app use to teacher-guided demonstration, not student-led investigation.
Money Pieces is a tool used in the Bridges in Mathematics curriculum. Although little support is present for the app itself, the Math Learning Center website offers curriculum resources such as free lessons, tools, and programs.