Top Apps for Elementary Math

Even the ancient abacus can be found in app form to help kids learn math.
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Gone are the days of drill-and-kill worksheets to help kids build their math skills. Smartphones and tablets offer interactive apps that allow elementary-age children to practice their addition, subtraction, multiplication and other math skills in creative ways. However, not all elementary math apps are created equal. The top apps are designed to make sure children really are engaged in the learning process and that the math skills stick.

1 Content

Most of the top math apps are not comprehensive. Instead, they focus on a few key skills and provide children with multiple practice opportunities. These are not your basic "see a problem, select an answer" apps. Instead, they help children really understand the concepts and skills. For example, Math Mathews (see Resources) helps kids build basic multiplication skills by answering multiple-choice questions, representing a problem on a grid and filling in a missing number in a problem. Intro to Math by Montessorium (see Resources) is another app that provides multiple practice opportunities, helping children learn their numbers by tracing them, seeing them as dots, stick, and segments, and ordering numbers in different ways.

2 Rewards and Positive Praise

Math can be challenging for children, and the developers of the best math apps understand this. They do not put down children for selecting the wrong answer. Instead, they offer positive reinforcement, encouraging kids to try again and offering positive praise and rewards whether it takes the child one try or nine tries to get the correct answer. Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom Into Numbers (see Resources) uses the energetic, positive characters from the popular Nick Jr. cartoon "Team Umizoomi" to encourage kids to keep practicing their skills. Another award-winning math app, Math Bingo (see Resources), gives children multiple chances to get bingo and rewards them with silly bugs.

3 Entertainment Value

Math can be boring, especially when it involves answering the same problems over and over again. The top math apps turn math into a game, making building math skills a means to an end, such as finding a hidden treasure or taking down enemy forces. For example, in Mathmateer (see Resources) kids earn money to help build their own rockets and complete one of 56 math missions, with each mission covering a different level or skill. Other apps add entertainment by speeding up the problem-solving process. For example, 50Seconds Speed Fun (see Resources) challenges children to complete a series of tasks in 50 seconds or fewer.

4 Value

High-quality math apps do not have to cost a lot of money. Many math apps are free or cost less than a dollar to download. However, that does not mean you should never pay for an app. If you find a math app that costs a little more, look closely at what it offers. If it covers skills your child needs to develop, offers multiple ways to practice those skills and has been named a top app by educational publications, it may be worth the price.

Stacy Zeiger began writing in 2000 for "Suburban News Publication" in Ohio and has expanded to teaching writing as an eighth grade English teacher. Zeiger completed creative writing course work at Miami University and holds a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in secondary education from Ohio State.