Smartphones and tablets have only become ubiquitous in the last decade, but now, most of us can’t imagine life without them.
They’ve changed the way we communicate, access information, and learn. They can even change the way we engage with subjects we think we have trouble learning — like math. Happily, there are a now multitude of apps that make numbers fun for all ages, and provide the help we need when we’re stuck. Here are a few suggestions for young and old:
(iTunes — $1.99)
Preschoolers and kindergarteners can practice their counting and nurture their inner entomologist with this graphic game, which has players figure out how many aphids it takes to satisfy a caterpillar. As players progress through different levels, they earn butterflies they can then admire in their own gallery. Not only is it a counting game, it’s a way for kids to appreciate nature.
(iTunes and Android — $2.99)
Kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade can practice telling time, addition, subtraction, fractions, and shapes while maneuvering a marble through a maze. As the virtual version of the heavy, wooden version parents used to play, this activity ups the ante by having players answer questions as they attempt to manipulate the marble. And this game doesn’t end when the marble flies out of the maze and rolls under some furniture. (Or gets eaten by the dog).
(iTunes — $2.99)
Elementary school kids can practice their times tables with various games, and users can upload a photo of themselves so that their avatar looks exactly like them. Math gets personal — though there’s no reason kids can’t upload any picture they want, so if the dog wants to tackle the 12 times tables, who’s to stop him?
(iTunes — $0.99)
Kids six and up build rocket ships, then keep them flying by doing math problems that test their ability to handle finances, recognize shapes, and do multiplication. And as they do them correctly, they earn medals and virtual cash for their efforts. Because going into space will never be inexpensive.
Math vs. Zombies
Only math can stop the zombie apocalypse! Kids have to go through at least eight levels to defeat the undead, and the only way to do so is to solve the problem above a zombie’s head. Problems involve addition, subtraction and multiplication, and users are rewarded for using their braaains, particularly if they get through all 24 levels.
(iOS — Prices Vary)
Math Snacks, a collection of games, short animated films, and apps developed at New Mexico State University, offers a variety of math learning materials. Choose from Pearl Diver, Ratio Rumble, and several videos to learn about number lines, fractions, ratios, and proportions.
(iOs and Android, Free)
Kids in grades six through eight can practice math and language arts on the same app. Math exercises align with Common Core standards and cover a range of concepts, including fractions, integers, decimals, percentages, and square roots. A calculator and “blackboard” are included, so learners never have to leave the app to work out problems.
The concept of this game may be familiar to those who already play the letter-based tile game. But instead of words, players can choose from a selection of game boards to formulate equations. You can practice math problems and chat with your friends at the same time. But if your friends are afraid of your math skills, you also have the option to be paired with a random opponent.
(iTunes, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows — $2.99)
The ultimate problem solving website helps whether you’re stuck on simple arithmetic or a complex calculus equation. It also explains concepts and defines math terms. Users simply input the problem they’re trying to solve, and the likelihood that they’ll stump the site is slim to none. Granted, trying to stump the site can also be pretty fun.
(Android — $4.99)
Graphing on paper can be a pain, but with this app, you can get a visual on anything from the absolute value of x to sin y, without sharpening a single pencil or setting up any x and y value charts. You just input the equation, and done. Never wonder what an infinite limit looks like again.
(Android — $1.99)
Another option for when you’re stuck on a homework problem. This app gives you a step-by-step explanation for everything from basic math to vector algebra. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help with word problems.
(iTunes and Android, Prices Vary)
Sometimes, all the videos, games and interactive problem sets in the world can’t replace the personal touch, and that’s where MathCrunch comes in. The app gives you access to tutoring 24/7, in everything from algebra to calculus, with an actual person. All you do is take a picture of your assignment and send it to them. Your tutor will go through it with you, and hopefully help get the clarity you need.