The homeschool world abounds with opinions on electronics. Some think that electronics should be limited, while others think that electronics should be embraced. My family falls somewhere in between. We do limit our screen time at my house to encourage and promote outdoor (and indoor) play, but I do use them for educational purposes occasionally, especially on memorization material that I want my kids to have a basis for like world and national geography or multiplication facts, and sometimes to reinforce concepts particularly in the summer. We are in the summer months and are playing a few educational apps together. Here are a few that I’ve really loved over the years. These are high quality educational apps worth the price. What are your favorite educational apps?
Bugs and Buttons ($3)
This is a cute little game that teaches both basic math and reading concepts. It’s a delightful blend of life-like bugs and buttons in various shapes to complete this task. They have several activities to choose from completing tasks and collecting stamps to place in your “stamp book.” They also have a particular bug, Morty, that you can find in each activity. It’s make a cute little celebration when you find him, and Morty keeps a passport that you can look where he has gone. They now have a Bugs and Buttons 2, and a few other games of mazes and such.
Starfall is already well-known in the literary community for their phonics and reading website, but they also have app. The basic starfall has a list of the alphabet to click on with several little activities that teach the phonetic sounds for each letter. Later they have a reading app as well that can teach your child to read. Starfall also has a More Starfall app that reads books and teaches math to preschoolers. It requires an annual subscription of $35 to use the app, which also gives you access to the website as well. The basic website for starfall, Starfall.com is worth checking out if you have a preschooler.
Dragonbox Numbers ($8)
This is how I like to teach numbers, not on an app per say, but with a great deal of number sense. This game is great at teaching number sense, counting, and logic through a series of puzzles, activities, and games. It very much reminds me of how Educationunboxed.com uses Cuisenaire rods to teach math skills. The player is able to manipulate the “nooms” to make larger or smaller nooms. Really I recommend anything by Dragonbox. They are an excellent educational game developer. You won’t be disappointed, but a warning, these are the most expensive apps that we buy. While most apps are a few dollars, their apps come in at five to eight dollars. Dragonbox also has a “Big Numbers” app for early elementary age, that we haven’t used yet, but I imagine is just as good.
Elementary (and sometimes Middle school)
This is the next step from Dragonbox’s Numbers. This app teaches
mostly addition and subtraction. If I were to develop an app, I’d develop it this way. Shows grouping and regrouping so well,
illustrates how addition and subtraction works, and is full of all kinds of exchanges. Starts slow and simple and works its way up to higher processes and more choices. Several different options as the game progresses that make it interesting to a wide number of children: fishing, pets, gifts for pets. All of this while teaching math. This may be my favorite educational app; most definitely is my favorite math app for this age group.
Dragonbox Algebra 5+ ($6)
Like I said before, I highly recommend anything Dragonbox. This app teaches how to solve algebraic equations through an ingenious abstract way. They start with the most basic equation illustrating it as images on a two-sided screen with a box on one side. The idea is to isolate the box to one side, but what is done on one side must be done on the other as well. By the end of the game real numbers and variables are being used. This is a great logic game, though I will say that although it says you can start at five years of age, that unless your child excels in the area of math, I would recommend six or seven years of age. A child of five years old can do it, but he or she may need you by their side for help. Dragonbox also produces another Algebra app for 12+.
Stack the States 2 (or Countries) ($3)
Another absolutely fabulous developer- Dan Russell-Pinson. This man knows how children learn. His games are wonderfully developed often including a tiered system of rewards, starting off relatively easy and gradually increasing in difficulty. Stack the States’ tiered game allows for a variety of information to be learned and memorized. The main layer of game is a trivia game where you earn states to stack. When the last state stacked (say that fast three times) crosses the goal line, if you have answered so many questions correctly, you earn a state to place on your map. You can control what kinds of questions are asked in the options section. They include things like state shapes, capital, adjacent states, landmarks, other cities, maps, and such. When you have so many states, you can unlock other games. These include Map It, where you place the States on the map as they come up on the screen, and another game where you match the capital with the state. Dan produces other app including a very similar one for World Geography called Stack the Countries. Besides just being an excellent developer, he is also great at customer service. I was having trouble with an app that turned out to be a Barnes and Noble problem, but he contacted me personally to try to correct the problem. (I think this was early on in it’s development) I was impressed!
Isn’t this just the funniest name, but that’s exactly what the game is. There are a series of trivia questions for the main game where if you answer the question correctly you get a president, as a ping-pong, to shoot at the aliens. Who knew Presidents could be used in this manner! Each time you are correct a number of times, you earn a “president.” With so many presidents you can access two other games. One of these additional game places the Presidents in chronological order by when they served, and the other matches a president’s picture with his (and someday her) name. This game is also developed by Dan and does a great job at helping kids memorize the presidents and relative facts.
Math Tower ($2)
Another game developed by Dan. This one is excellent for memorization of addition and multiplication facts. You set up different magic towers along the street to free the numbers as they walk by. You can build a tower when you answer a math fact correctly. There are varying degrees of difficulty to choose from. This is a simpler game than his others, but was a real value to us in memorizing multiplication facts.
Dragonbox Elements ($6)
This Dragonbox app covers geometry by offering a series of geometric logic puzzles. This app teaches how to perform geometric proofs, but again in a brilliant, abstract way, so that the child doesn’t even know exactly what they are learning to do. We used this app last year when we were doing the Waldorfsih Geometry and was a perfect fit. I think it was extremely useful to have us talk about the concepts before he played the game, giving him a more concrete idea of how and why the puzzles worked the way they did. Even without explanation, I think the game is worthwhile. It will come in useful when they study Geometry in High School.