App Reviews

5 Top Middle School Math Apps Reviewed

Looking for great apps that match standards you need to teach? Common Sense Media’s new service Graphite, which offers independent ratings and reviews on learning apps and websites, has compiled a list of its top picks. Each month as part of the K12 Mobile Classroom newsletter, THE Journal will feature a small selection of apps around a particular content theme or subject area (this month: math and ELA for middle school). All apps listed are compatible with iOS and Android. For complete reviews, and for each app’s “Learning Rating,” visit the Graphite website.


brainpop featured movie app

1. BrainPOP Featured Movie
: Subscriptions range from $99/year for at-home family use to over $200/year for one classroom and up to three computers.
Concepts: Energy, Space, Biology, Probability, Geometry, and more
Grade levels: 2 through 8

BrainPOP Featured Movie serves as both a fun, free daily dose of information in video format and an easy way to access BrainPOP's extensive video collection, which covers everything from atoms to Mars. The daily movie is available free, but access to the library requires a BrainPOP subscription. Each movie features a male character, Tim, and a robot named Moby and is accompanied by a comprehension quiz. The quiz is a great way for kids to test their understanding of the movie content; however, the 10 multiple-choice questions are limited in how far they can extend the learning. Read the full review.

dragonbox plus app

2. DragonBox+
Price: $5.99
Concepts: algebra, equations
Grade levels: 2 through 8

Unlike many math games out there, DragonBox+ integrates entertainment and instruction so seamlessly that learning the mechanics of gameplay is essentially learning algebra. By the time kids "win" the game, they'll be shocked by how much they've learned. Teachers may consider using DragonBox+ in the classroom as a way to solidify concepts. The app includes the lesson levels, 100 "bonus" problems, and avatars for up to four players. Read the full review.

minecraft pocket app

3. Minecraft – Pocket Edition
: $6.99
Concepts: ratio, geology, exploration, geography
Grade levels: 3 through 8

Minecraft Pocket Edition is the mobile version of the popular PC game Minecraft. Kids gather basic resources to assemble more complex tools, materials, and structures. The real value of Minecraft PE is in its sandbox gameplay. Though smaller in scope than its PC predecessor, Minecraft PE preserves wonder and delight in exploration, discovery, and creation. As kids explore the game's unique worlds, new possibilities for resource collection and building meet them at every turn. Deciding what to build and where to build lets kids set goals and shape gameplay. Teachers can suggest more specific goals and guidelines to address a diverse range of classroom objectives. Read the full review.

sliceit app

4. Slice It!
: Free
Concepts: Division, fractions, geometry, graphing, measurement, ratio, shapes
Grade levels: 3 through 7

Slice It! delivers 200 brain-teasing puzzles that challenge kids' under-standing of core geometry concepts including shapes, symmetry, area, and measurement. Each puzzle presents a different shape, which kids must "slice" into a set number of equal parts by using a finger to make a specific number of cuts. Sure, you can easily cut a circle like a pizza into 12 slices, but what about cutting a trapezoid into 11? Though success relies on applying basic geometry knowledge, Slice It! could do better to support a deeper understanding of the math principles behind successful gameplay. To support a lesson on lines of symmetry or calculating area, teachers might consider Slice It! as an engaging, hands-on way to preview the concepts. Put kids in pairs or small groups to attempt the puzzles and give them a chance to learn through collaborative problem solving. Read the full review.

trainyard app itunes

5. Trainyard
: $2.99
Concepts: Counting, geometry, engineering, motion
Grade levels: 3 through 7

Trainyard is a train routing puzzle game that's easy to learn but hard to master. Gameplay offers a simple goal: Get the color-coded trains from their outlets to their correct stations. As the game progresses, kids encounter new obstacles and techniques coupled with effective tutorials that pop up (usually just when needed) during play. Kids can learn real railway concepts like switching tracks, train car merging, crossovers, and collisions. Geometrical concepts such as symmetry and asymmetry, timing (based on counting squares), and color mixing make for a concept-packed experience. Read the full review.

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