How can you choose the best Ed Apps for your students?
An interview with Karen Mahon, Ph.D. CEO and founder of Balefire Labs, scientifically rigorous Ed app reviewers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Click here for archived back issues 
An interview with Karen Mahon, Ph.D. CEO and founder of Balefire Labs, scientifically rigorous Ed app reviewers.

Dr. Don asks: What is the difference between the best and the average educational apps?

Karen Mahon:
We see many apps that say that they are "educational" but it seems like they just have educational content without any deliberate instructional design in the apps. Just packing an app with a bunch of ABCs and 123s doesn't make it a good app. The best apps use methods that have been proven effective by scientific research, including adapting levels of difficulty and a mastery-based approach. Another feature that separates the average apps from the best apps is that the best apps include performance reports that are sufficiently detailed such that teachers can tell what a student has or has not learned by using the app and can even determine which skills need additional intervention. We call these "actionable" data.

Dr. Don asks: Why do you think schools need help picking the best apps?

Karen Mahon:
The biggest reason schools need help is time. There are tens of thousands of learning apps and games in the app stores. Not only do teachers not have time to comb through the available apps, but they often don't have time to preview an individual app long enough to see the full range of what the app teaches and how its curriculum progresses. Saving money is a secondary consideration. Our teachers like to know that an app is worthwhile before spending money on it, but they tell us that their bigger issue is time. By us giving teachers and schools the "short list" of the best apps to use in the classroom, they can focus on what really requires their attention: integrating apps into their curriculum.

Dr. Don asks: How does Balefire Labs evaluate educational apps?

Karen Mahon:
We have a rubric of 12 research-based criteria that describe the best practices of instructional design and usability design. These criteria delineate the features and functions that have been shown to make instruction effective and easy to use. Because we have an objective set of criteria, we can evaluate each and every app in the same way. This allows teachers and parents to compare apps with each other directly, selecting the strongest ones for their kids. Our teachers and parents find that our approach is more objective and transparent than other app review services on the market today.

Dr. Don asks: What made you pick the Rocket Math apps for the Best of 2015?

Karen Mahon:
Put simply, the two Rocket Math apps were among the 16 highest rated apps of the year, according to our rubric. We reviewed more than 1,200 learning games and apps in 2015. Oftentimes when awards are given it's kind of a mystery how they were decided. In our case there's no mystery. The 16 apps that received awards were the ones that met the most of our criteria and scored the highest ratings.

Customer Question of the Week

A teacher asks:

Can I upgrade from basic to universal? Will I just pay the difference?

Dr. Don answers:
Yes, indeed. We have it as an item you can purchase on the website: item #2999 Upgrade Basic to Universal subscription.  It costs $20, which is the exactly difference. Good decision to upgrade! But please note, this is a manual process so it may sometimes take a few hours before I can get to your subscription to upgrade it.

Once I do you will be able to get into the drawers of the Universal subscription: Rocket Writing for Numerals, Add to 20, Skip Counting, 10s, 11s and 12s (Multiplication and Division), Factors, Integers, etc. And I will be finishing Subtract from 20 (to respond to Common Core expectations) within a month or two and that will be included in your Universal subscription as well.

If you hover over "Products" on the blue bar at the top of our home page, a black background drop-down menu appears. In the center is the category of Rocket Math and at the bottom of the list is "Upgrade Basic to Universal Subscription" [bracketed in yellow in the picture above]. If you click on that it will take you to the page to order the upgrade. Be certain you enter the same email address as your original subscription so we can match you up and upgrade the right account!

Here is a coupon code    upgrade15%off   which if you enter it during your ordering process will take 15% off the price of your upgrade.  By the way, this is too little to qualify for a purchase order (minimum $49) so you might consider adding some additional items like games, wall charts, or motivational items to your cart while you are shopping!

Use Coupon Code  UPGRADE15%OFF when you order.
Offer Expires 5/31/2016. Item #2999  Upgrade  a Basic to a Universal Subscription, normal price of $20 is discounted, may be used more than once.
Something you might never have found on our website!
Rocket Math FAQs 
Get the answers to all your Rocket Math questions by clicking here to go to our FAQs page.   
You don't have to look through the entire directions. On the FAQs page you can scroll through such questions as these: 
  • C--What do I have to copy?
  • D--Just what do I have to set up?
  • H--What has to be ready for me to start?
  • O--How should the students practice with each other?
  • R--How do I establish the daily routine so it runs smoothly?
  • U--How do I conduct the One-Minute Daily Test?
  • X--How do I monitor student's progress?
How to Run Rocket Math 
How to Run Rocket Math 
(in 7 minutes)
Good intro or review! 

Thank you for your interest in Rocket Math.  I created it to help students be more successful, gain confidence and enjoy math more.  Let me know how else I can help.  Feel free to call me with any questions you have or send me an email to
Dr. Don
Rocket Math
phone (888) 488-4854
Rocket Math 
Addition App
Available in the 
and for a 50% discount in Apple's Volume Purchase Plan for Education.
Click to read
the reviews  for our Apps:

Rocket Math
Multiplication App
Available in the
and for a 50% discount in Apple's Volume Purchase Plan for Education.