Experts continue to come around on the question of screen time, moving from the old school “It will melt their brains!” to a more nuanced understanding that it’s the kind of screen time your kid gets that really matters. And even Professor Nofunforyou has to admit that, when the apps in question teach math concepts that your kid will tangle with this year in school, that’s screen time well spent. So get these apps onto their tablet and turn long car rides, evening quiet time, and whenever else they’re not paying attention to you into future mathalete training.
Park MathKids don’t play outside anymore and all the playgrounds stink. Don’t fight it. Send them to the park the same way they’ll eventually interact with the rest of the outside world: through a screen. Park Math teaches basic concepts through cleverly written playground scenarios starring fuzzy animals (e.g., ducks going down a slide = subtraction) while keeping your child safely indoors, away from potentially dangerous grass.
$1.99 ( iOs)
Intro To MathFrom Euclid to Hawking, they all started with 1-10. This app teaches math’s most basic foundation through puzzles starting with stacking and sequencing objects of different sizes and progressing through matching numerals to quantities and recognizing the numbers and drawing their shapes. Montessorium’s modernized and beautifully designed take on the fundamentals that will ensure your kindergartener can count to 10 even while wearing mittens.
$4.99 ( iOs)
Quick Math Jr.Add this theorem next to Pythagoras in the textbook: math games are more fun when played with self-designed monster characters. This app is designed to give kids a strong “number sense,” which is common core speak for “knowing what numbers mean.” Students progress through challenges in counting, ordering, subitizing, mental arithmetic, formal addition and subtraction, and deciding how many googly eyes to put on their monster.
Free/In-App Purchases ( iOs)
Shape Lab GeometrySandboxes have gone digital, too. That’s how this geometry iPad app describes itself, anyway. It’s designed for kindergarteners through sixth graders to draw and manipulate geometric shapes, create pictures with them, investigate their properties like area, perimeter, congruence, and angles, and follow teacher-created lesson plans. Now you can finally explain to them what Huey Lewis was talking about… and who Huey Lewis is.
$2.99 ( iOs)
Numbers LeagueAs the old-timey crime show music blares, assemble your team of do-gooders and defeat evil in Infinity City using a range of awesome superpowers… and math! If you’d had this hidden in your algebra textbook instead of those Justice League comics, things might have panned out differently for you. (For starters, you’d probably have become more of a Marvel guy.)
$3.99 ( iOs)
Loves To CountPirate Trio’s math app teaches kids the everyday applications of numbers as indicators of order, time, weight, and quantity through 700 tasks from playing dominos to catching fish. You know, typical pirate stuff. So in this case, a pirate looks at 40 and determines he can give 4 slices of pizza to 10 of his mates.
$3.99 ( iOs)
ThreesApple’s 2014 Design Award and Game Of The Year Award winner doesn’t involve much arithmetic, but it does teach kids numbers in impossibly adorable — and addictive — fashion. When Junior shuts the world out in favor of endless replays matching (or when you try to take it from him and become obsessed yourself), at least you can hide behind the guise of “education.”
Free ( iOs) (Android) (Windows), $1.99 (Amazon)
Operation MathIn this game, more than 100 timed math challenges become missions that take players around the world to defeat Dr. Odd and become an elite spy. It’s a great supplement to homework and flash cards, and you can create up to 3 distinct profiles in case you feel the need to brush up on your multiplication tables.
$2.99 ( iOs) (Android) (Amazon)
Motion Math: CupcakeThis game has kids run a cupcake bakery and use math concepts including proportions, coordinates, and mixed numbers to complete tasks like supply purchases, order fulfillment, and deliveries. All of that is way more educational than the cupcake math they’d come up with on their own: “How many can I eat in a minute?”
$4.99 ( iOs)
Rhythm Necklace GeometryBeginning with a simple circle, you’ll create, flip, rotate, and merge shapes to build rhythmic sequences and discover the relationships between mathematical concepts and music. Any explanation more detailed than that starts to include computer scientists and words like “ethnomusicology,” so stop while you’re ahead and just enjoy the fact that you can turn shapes into sounds without having to buy magic brownies from someone named Sunflower in a Phish parking lot.
$2.99 ( iOs)