Apps for Making Math Fun
By Deborah Chantson
The world of educational games is tough. Kids seem to be able to sniff out a purposeful “learning” game from a mile away, and already it has the stench of obvious “edutainment” – “What is this extracurricular learning you have me doing?!”
But if it can be fun enough, drills won’t seem as hard, and aside from promising candy, sometimes you hope that colorful animations can make that remedial help seem much more tolerable when it looks different from a plain worksheet or textbook.
If you type “math” into the App Store search bar, filtering for free iPad apps, you get 919 different choices. Here are some of the best for school age kids:
Good at Math
Zombies to help me get faster with math drills? Yes please!
It’s not as scary as it sounds, but the main character, Good, falls asleep and dreams that her classmates have been turned into zombies. To get rid of the zombies (who poof away if you’re afraid of violence in video games) is to answer math questions in addition/subtraction, multiplication/division or a mix of all.
When answering, users can just tap the numbers for the correct answer, or write them out according to the illustrated tracing directions to get practice. For younger users, you might be able to sit next to them and dictate the answers as they write them. There’s a time limit though, so beware! (Which is great for math drills.)
Testing of this app wasn’t as thorough as I would have liked, but from the short preview I had, this game seems really promising! Users (kindergarten to grade two) first log in to the program and establish a profile, then parents create a parents profile in order to see reports and test scores. It seems as if you get a one-year free subscription, after which, a one-year subscription costs $6.99. For free, you can see your child’s training scores, but test scores require 10,000 coins (which in real currency is $9.99 for 11,500).
Be careful of in-app purchases for coins, because users can customize avatars’ appearances but need certain amounts of coins first. Coins can be obtained by playing the games (which I quite enjoyed), so there’s incentive to keep playing. There’s lots of positive affirmation and encouragement, hints on how to solve problems, and cute, friendly-looking animal characters to cheer you on. Levels (which can be changed to easy, normal or hard) range from addition, telling time, subtraction, and patterns.
Price: Free but beware of in-app purchases
Part of hiding the educational aspect of an educational game is to hide words like “math”, “learn”, and “fun” from the titles, so Ninja Chicken wins the prize. Unfortunately, to distinguish this app from the other Ninja Chickens, the subtitle is, “Tiny Chicken learns Prime Numbers.”
Anyhow … users basically do the same thing as they would in Fruit Ninja, only slicing the spikes which are not prime numbers. Great for the classroom, this free app can help reinforce a small unit in a super fun way before moving on to the next chunk of curriculum.
This beautifully designed game is definitely one for preschoolers or younger since it involves counting, colors, and hand-eye coordination building. Users guide Sam to eat bugs of different colors, but be careful, since he can only eat a certain number of each before things happen! Overall, Sam Phibian is a really enjoyable experience so parents and kids can play together for quite a while. Watch what happens when Sam eats non-bug items like chili peppers, underwear, spaceships and model airplanes. It’s pretty funny!
Aimed at students in grades 3-8, this game helps develop skills with integers, fractions and number lines. Developed by the New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab and with support from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, it’s only fitting that this game is about lobster diving at the right point on the number line, and cutting up eel for sushi depending on fractions needed. This is actually a great game for learning because users have limited lives and need to watch out for electric eels in the water. Danger: something most educational games often miss!
It’s not the greatest of quality, but for a free app that has the option to change difficulty, it’s not a bad one to try out. With the young voicing and cutesy icons (ladybugs and flowers), it may be skewed more to girls, but I’d defy anyone to say that’s a bad thing. Users answer questions involving brackets such as [(8+5)-(5+1)], then choose from three different answers. The drawback might be that you have to do the questions in your head, which actually become way harder, such as [(60+49)-(25+22)].
For one thing, this app is great for adults who are scared of skill-testing contest questions and need some practice beforehand.
Well, I did say that the title of this blog post was “Math Apps for Making Math Fun,” and while it’s a little weird to be doing math problems and simultaneously battling an ugly-looking creature, in the spirit of making math fun, I say it works. Basically, users garner enough energy to battle (more like jump and pounce attack) by answering math questions correctly. The lite version only has the robotic fox battle, but I imagine that the full version could be a lot more fun. For $2.99, I say it’s worth the gamble.
Price: Free to try, $2.99 to buy
Math Easy HD
Also not the greatest of games, but this one is really entertaining (with cute animations!) and covers a wide range of material like number order, spelling, interchanging between Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) and written words (sixteen, seventeen, etc.). Aimed at kids aged 6 and under, I would recommend this app to be used as a single-use activity book for an airplane or long car ride since the novelty is sure to wear off.
Price: Free to try, $1.99 for full version
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