This School Year’s Best Free or Cheap Math Apps

By Scott Sterling

This is the start of a series for back to school focusing on the best apps that you might want to consider using this school year. The list is limited to apps that don’t require expensive site-wide licenses or subscriptions (although that might be an option for additional features). If there is a cost, it’s nominal and might mean the app is better as a supplement rather than a mandatory download for the whole class.

Feel free to share these ideas with your colleagues.

Before we start, I’ve always been a fan of BrainPOP, which presents cartoons on a wide range of elementary and middle school topics (not just math). They’re great as introductory lessons before starting a unit or as a component in a flipped class lesson. Think of it as Kahn Academy for young people.

For this list, let’s break down math into subjects. We’ll start with elementary-level concepts:

Sushi Monster (free)

In Sushi Monster, students have to feed a monster equations built with sushi that coordinate with appropriate values. The pieces of sushi are rotating, making the game fast-paced and challenging. Students should have a basic knowledge of either addition or division before attempting. Only available for iOS.

Marble Math Junior ($2.99)

The premise is simple: students roll a marble through a maze. Along the way, they are collecting answers to word problems. The app is activating both number sense and higher order executive function skills. Teachers also like how customizable the app is for a variety of learners. Available for iOS and Android.

Bugs and Numbers ($2.99)

For the students into creepy crawlies, this app is run through the eyes and movements of bugs. The topics Bugs and Numbers can supplement is pretty impressive, everything from matching to fractions and measurement. So, for example, the bugs help students divide a pizza at a picnic as practice for fractions. Might not be for every student, but could be a game changer for kids into gross stuff. Only available for iOS.

The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense ($4.99)

The best kind of app is one where kids don’t even realize they are learning (who knew all those hours with Angry Birds helped people learn physics concepts?). The Land of Venn is a defense game where monsters are on the attack. The player’s defense is to draw series of shapes based on the provided map. Only available for iOS.

Algebra & Problem Solving

Algebra Touch ($2.99)

This app is no-frills algebra introduction. Lessons and practice are presented based on topic. Concepts are broken down into steps with animations and then students work on their own. It’s not a complete solution (there’s no way to see what progress students are making), but I can see this being used a lot for remediation or an introduction to a lesson. Only available for iOS.

DragonBox Algebra ($7.99)

It’s pricier, but that’s because it’s incredibly popular and effective. There is a dragon in a box. Through algebraic equations, the object is to isolate the dragon to one side of the screen by moving other variables. If successful, the dragon eats the rest of the equation and the student moves on. Available for both iOS and Android


iCrosss ($0.99)

There is no game or even assessment in this app. Instead, students are just able to manipulate simple or complex shapes in 3D, deconstructing and cross-sectioning as they go. For geometry students who are spatial learners, this app could be a game changer. Only for iPad.

DragonBox Elements ($4.99)

The same team behind the algebra series lends their talents for engagement and gameplay to geometric concepts. Your goal is to lead a team of shape-based monsters through various geometry puzzles and games. As expected, the puzzles get progressively harder as you move along. Available for both iOS and Android.

Next week: Best Apps for ELA

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