Originally developed to combine the enjoyment of an “Angry Birds”-style casual gaming experience with effective foreign language learning, MindSnacks creates mobile games with the dual mission to maximize both fun and mastery of new concepts. Founded in 2010, the San Francisco startup has built a full suite of iOS language learning apps (currently available in English-ESL, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish) and has expanded to other content areas such as SAT Vocab. Additional subjects in development as of January 2013 include geography and math. Each app consists of six mini games, each focusing on a specific learning goal, including comprehension, grammar, spelling, and syntax.
All of MindSnacks’ apps are available as a free download on the App Store. With up to three levels available for free, users can upgrade to the full version for $4.99. The full version of the language apps includes six mini games, with 25 challenges and 50 levels, including over 1400 words and phrases to master. A recent (November 2012) major update to the Portuguese app includes an iPad-optimized edition with seven brand new games and two redesigned “classic” games from the original release. The SAT Vocab app includes 25 levels and challenges to help you learn 500 vocabulary words. The touchscreen game mechanics, colorful and quirky characters, and music enhance the learning experience across all of the mini games and challenges.
MindSnacks’ games were developed with several evidence-based features in mind, based on research in human learning and memory. Words and phrases are presented in multiple formats: visual, auditory, and pictorial, allowing the learner to form complex multisensory representations to enhance retention. Moreover, the items are presented using “spaced repetition,” which allows for review of previously learned terms throughout the games and supports long term memory processes.
Learners can keep track of their progress with a dashboard view of their overall accuracy (as a percentage) and items mastered, and can subscribe to a word of the day push notification. Upon completing a level, users can go back and review at their leisure.
After achieving over four million downloads and nearly 100 million words and phrases learned to date, MindSnacks has found that about one-third of their users have downloaded more than one app. With an almost even split between child (under 18) and adult users, the 24-person team has a diverse and loyal fan base. Having recently raised a Series A venture round from Sequoia Capital, MindSnacks is currently working on expanding its repertoire of educational content and rolling out major updates to all of its existing apps.
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