A new school year is just around the corner, and though it can be tough to get back into that educational groove, there are plenty of apps available for iPhone and iPod to help make learning easier. Whether you’re the parent of a pre-schooler or you're a college student preparing for a tough senior year, you’ll find something useful here. We’ve rounded up the best apps available to get the most educational bang for your buck.
Teachers may be only now starting to enjoy summer vacation, but Apple is looking ahead to the new school season this fall with a major update to the iTunes U app that makes it easier to do even more on the iPad.
Despite a plethora of fun and colorful interactive elements and engaging animations, Incredible Numbers isn't a dumbed-down app for the digital generation. Rather, Professor Ian Stewart uses the iPad's boundless teaching tools to take the mystery out of some of mathematics' most difficult concepts, including factorials, Fibonacci numbers, and heptadecagons. An attractive menu of eight circles—plus a bonus section dedicated to brainteasers—guides you to your chosen lesson, but the simple one-word headings hardly prepare you for the wealth of information inside.
One of the challenges facing educational game developers is how to strike a balance between lessons and fun. Too much teaching, and the game ceases to keep a child’s attention; too little, and it becomes just another game. That’s one of the reasons Slice Fractions is so great: it has mastered teaching kids about fractional math without having overt lessons to do so. Slice Fractions tasks players with clearing a path for a woolly mammoth to get from one side of the screen to another.
There are plenty of free iPad apps for entertaining toddlers, but few have much real educational value. This isn’t a problem for Learn with Homer, an app created by top literacy experts that overflows with well-crafted early learning content. Aimed at ages three to six, Learn with Homer makes reading fun and instructive. Upon launch, up to three different little ones can customize the app with a photo from the front-facing camera, which is then decorated with one of several virtual “thinking caps.” It’s a fun way to set the stage for what lies ahead.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've had ample opportunities to discuss Apple's long-running relationship with the educational sphere, ranging from discounts on MacBook Pros to gift cards for students who purchase iPhones. As reported by Spiegel (via AppleInsider), however, the Dutch have taken that relationship to an entirely new level. Beginning in August, 11 "Steve Jobs schools" will open throughout the Netherlands, presenting an educational experience that's based entirely on the iPad. And here we thought supplying iPads to kids in 47 Los Angeles schools was a big deal.
With the incredible popularity of Minecraft, it’s not surprising to see other games expand upon its winning creation formula. Toca Builders is one such offering, but it uses the template for additional aims. This kid-oriented app from Toca Boca adds some interesting twists to the core concept of “building with blocks” and gives kids the chance to be creative while also employing problem-solving skills.
Our kids may have been able to unlock our iPhones since before they could walk, but that doesn't mean they're actually gaining anything by using them. There are countless cartoon and character apps to keep them occupied, but sometimes we want them to learn and create while they're having fun. Montessorium's "Intro" apps have always struck a keen balance between education and entertainment, but its latest entry, Intro to Colors, might be the best to date. With a vivid, interactive interface inspired by the Montessori color tablets, Intro to Colors just might turn your child into the next Picasso.
When I was a kid, I got this magazine called Penny Power, which was put out by Consumer Reports with the goal of helping kids grow wise to the concepts of money (mostly spending it) in age-appropriate ways. It's no longer published, but I still remember some of the lessons it taught me, because it made those lessons fun. Dinorama appeals to me for the same reasons, now as a parent myself. It's filled with teachable moments about money, wrapped up in a tycoon-style game where kids build and run their own dinosaur park.
Summer’s here, which means that now (or very soon) the kids will be free from the clutches of school for a long stretch of vacation. But there’s no reason that you can’t encourage some independent learning to keep their minds from turning to sludge, especially with a little help from an iPhone or iPad. These 10 fun and engaging iOS apps will expand your kids’ vocabulary and leave them talking like scholars in no time.