I do think that math apps for the iPhone/iPad/iPod are a really fun way to learn and practice math. In some ways, very specific apps like the ones from iDevMath can serve as a private tutor for your child, teaching a concept step by step and provide problems for practice.
Other math apps are meant to be really fun and are a way to use gaming to practice math facts. Still, others provide an overview, like a Cliff Notes for a math subject. Algebra Boot Camp is not meant to be sexy, but it’s like reading someone’s very good notes for a refresher review. I believe in all of these concepts so I rounded up what I think are the best educational iPad and iPhone apps for kids. Now when your kids use your iPhone, you can feel good about making them math games!
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Math Apps that Teach and Entertain Kids
Really Fun Math Fact iPhone/iPad/iPod Game Apps
Math Ninja (Fun Game for Math Facts: +, -, x, /)
My kids think this is a super fun game. They earn points by doing the math facts drills, then use the additional arsenal of weapons that they earned to wipe out the enemies which are robotic animals. Hands down, this is my children’s favorite math app. The math facts will start with addition and you work your way up to subtraction, multiplication, and division. You have to type the answer into a number pad so you can’t guess. I like that.
Match-Up Math (Fun Game for Math Facts: +, -, x, /, fractions/percents/decimals, x and / mixed)
This is a highly addictive game that pairs math problems with either answers or alternate problems. When you match a pair correctly, there is a lovely xylophone-y sound and those tiles disappear. If you are wrong, you get a clunky musical sound. When you clear a board, you advance a level that is highly motivating for the gamers plus you get enthusiastic clapping and cheering sounds. There are 3 levels of play: easy, medium, and difficult.
Pop Math Lite (Fun Game for Math Facts: +, -, x, /)
What could be more fun than popping virtual balloons? To win, you pop pairs of balloons and practice math facts covering addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There is a new feature to practice a specific fact family from 2 through 12 which is great because you can isolate the facts your child really needs practice in. For my kids, it’s always the multiplication fact family of times 7. I’m not sure why.
Math A+ (Fun Game for Math Facts: +, -, x, /)
My oldest who doesn’t like math said that this was a good game. She said it like it was a secret that I wasn’t supposed to divulge: “Hey mom, this game is actually fun.” She especially liked the game where you suck the answer through 4 possible tubes that pose the math fact question. There’s a cool sucking noise as the number goes through the tube correctly. I have more details on it here. The nice thing is that there are three games built into this app: number sequence and two games for math facts.
I Live Math: Speed, Trains, Farm, Oceans. (Math Word Problems)
I really like the I Live Math series because its word problems applied to a wide variety of interesting topics. The trouble is that I can’t get my kids to use any of these excellent apps. I think the correct application would be to do this as if it were an assignment. It’s great for homeschoolers. It would be a fun way to practice math if your child has a math tutor. It would be great for preventing summer slide or for school year supplementation. But will your kid grab your iPhone and start playing on it without prompting? Yours might. Mine won’t.
MathGirl Number Garden (Math Games for Girls: Preschool through 2nd Grade)
This is a very smart app. It was created specifically to appeal to girls with the underlying assumption that girls opt-out of math as “something they are not good at,” or “math is perceived as a boy thing.” This app is perfect for preschoolers or kindergarten girls who are working on counting. It’s very sweet and appealing and well worth a few bucks to expose girls to the idea that math is for girls.
MathGirl Addition House
This is a pretty iPhone iPad math app for girls to practice addition facts. The incentive is to earn “things” for their playhouse. I love that it’s tailored to girls and that it makes math fact practice fun. Addition problems start off with single digits and work up to speed rounds, double digits, and adding doubles.
I played it with my oldest who is in 6th grade and she used my points to make us a pretty garden with a bunny, dragonfly, butterfly, and lots of roses. I can see how it would be really appealing for girls! I was just working on numeracy — counting up objects by 5’s and 10’s. Frankly, it’s tough to get the “rabbit” speedy answer! A few of my answers qualified for the “turtle” speed so this is certainly challenging because there is an incentive for speed AND accuracy.
DigitZ Lite (Fun Math Game for Math Facts: +. -, x, /)
My kids’ favorite online free web game is exactly like DigitZ, a kind of number stacking game in which you have to get rid of blocks as fast as possible by putting two together to form a different target number. If the number is 8, for example, and the operation is adding, you would try to get these pairs: 8 & 0, 1 & 7, 2 &6, 3 &5, and 4 &4. If the blocks fill a column, game over. We found this to be a really fun and addictive game. The beauty is that your child will really lock down on a particular small set of math facts.
iDevBooks (Math Tutoring and Practice for Specific Math Concepts)
These apps are like having a private tutor go over a very specific concept with your child. My oldest had trouble understanding the concept of carry subtraction and long division. She’s a visual learner and needs to understand the basis of the concept and can’t or won’t do the operation in a rote step-by-step way unless she knows why she’s is doing this.
Trade First Subtraction
It’s probably not a coincidence that Esa Heltulla, the developer of iDevBooks, is from Finland (a country that routinely scores the highest in math and literacy out of every country in the world!). This app helped my daughter to routinely ask: DO YOU NEED TO BORROW? And that is the most important question of all when it comes to subtraction!
I find long division to be easy to demonstrate but difficult to explain conceptually. I think this is why kids have trouble with it. This app demonstrates in a color-coded way that breaks long division down step by step. I think that really helps!
Lattice (Matrix) Multiplication
My kids do Everyday Math at school which introduces Lattice or Matix multiplication. I am old school so I do multi-column multiplication the “regular” way and I can’t fathom this method. I’d use this app to help my 3rd grader if she struggled with it.
He has many more math apps. Many of these correspond to the Everyday Math Curriculum.
There are a lot of apps for math facts but not so many for fractions and this app does a great job of teaching fractions in a fun and visual way. Even though fractions is a 3rd through 5th grade concept depending on the level of difficulty, I could definitely have my first grader use it to get an intuitive feel for fractions. And he would too because this reads like a game.
Kids Time Fun
I find that reading analog time is confusing to kids, even when you use that plastic clock with the hands that swirl around. This app focuses on problems figuring out time after or before a particular interval of time as well as just telling the time on the clock.
Algebra Boot Camp
This is not a sexy or fun iPad app but it’s a workhorse that is like having the best notes in class summarized down like a Cliffs Notes but for Algebra. As a textbook, it’s portable with great examples and can be used for additional help when a concept is confusing.
This is not a sexy app: what you see below is what you get, but it teaches the basic concepts of Algebra without making the user do the math calculations. I think this is a clever move. Algebra is abstract stuff and I know that it confuses the heck out of my sixth-grader. For example, this app teaches a simplified version of Order by Operation (i.e. first you multiply or divide THEN you add or subtract). I had forgotten all about that. As you do a problem, it works you through what operation goes first but it does the calculation for you which is gratifying and allows you to concentrate on the concept while not getting bogged down getting the final numerical answer. For a child who might need a high-level concept review but really does not like math, this is PERFECT!
I am afraid that the screenshots provided don’t do the app justice. It does a lot of algebra tutoring for a mere $2.99. I will get my oldest to check it out and will report back. This might require some arm twisting and bribery.
Kids Math Fun (by grade)
This iPhone/iPad/iPod app is basically flashcards but it’s organized by grade level.
First Grade Example:
To view any math app in iTunes, please click on icon.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.