Product Review of Polyup
Polyup is a web-based platform (and iOS and Android app) that provides learners with gamified math challenges. Using a cute guide (Poly) and calculation challenges called Poly Machines, learners can explore anything from simple operations (add, subtract, multiply, and divide) to more complex sequences and series (like the Fibonacci sequence and solving the Birthday Problem). Polyup walks learners through problems that get progressively harder and, on the higher level machines, learners are provided with a wide range of operations and functions to choose from.
Polyup also has a freeform sandbox mode and a place for users to submit their own Poly Machines, as well as over a dozen presentations available for educators that outline how to use Polyup to teach a wide variety of concepts. Students have the choice to create an account that tracks their progress or use a guest account that seems to keep track of progress if they’re using the same computer/web browser.
With over a dozen teacher presentations and a few videos demonstrating how Polyup can be used for a number of concepts, you would think Polyup is the calculator of the future, but sadly it may lead to more frustration than calculation for learners. Calculators are designed to “crunch numbers” and help learners quickly come up with answers to various operations, and Polyup does that very well. But by limiting which numbers and operations can be substituted or reordered to “fix” the modules Polyup provides, learners have very little freedom to explore alternative answers in the preset activities; they have to follow the exact instructions that Poly wants. This could be good if you’re teaching learners programming concepts and they have to follow very exact rules and roles, but for exploring and teaching math, it could lead to significant frustrations. The RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) method could also lead to confusion transferring information from Polyup to regular classroom instruction. However, for learners that really “get it,” many machines are available to challenge and inspire them to learn new ideas, as well as a sandbox mode where all numbers and operations are available for experimentation.
Polyup uses a top-down model, or Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), to do calculations — which could be very confusing for learners. While it works very well for Polyup, this method is counterintuitive for learners who have been taught PEMDAS or BEDMAS. Students could easily get confused about which operation is being performed on which set of numbers and how these calculations are being put together to come up with the answer.
The calculations also run extremely fast (unless learners can quickly navigate to the “slow down” button, which then runs very slowly), and once an answer has been reached, there are no indications of what went wrong — simply a statement from Poly of “That is not what I am looking for.” This could quickly frustrate learners who may not be able to determine where they went wrong. The app addresses some of these issues by providing a variable speed bar and hints when learners get stuck, but this feature doesn’t seem to be available on the web browser version. For learners who are struggling or just being introduced to these concepts, Polyup may be more frustrating than insightful. For learners who have a strong grasp of the concepts or want a challenge, then Polyup may be just the game for them.
Overall User Consensus About the App
A cute program with a lot of potential for exploring many concepts, but with an interface that can be confusing and counter to what learners learn in class.
Curriculum and Instruction
A quirky little character gets learners to “fix” broken modules covering a wide variety of calculations for many different math concepts.
Lots of teacher resources but very little in the way of in-game support for learners beyond Poly saying “That is not what I am looking for.”