Math. It has always been the subject of dread in my life until recently. I have never fully understood my struggles in higher math and my anxiety over mathematical computations until I observed our 9-year-old daughter as she struggled with math. My daughter is an exceptional learner who has inherited my learning challenges of Gifted/ADHD. After several years of homeschooling, I observed that she could blaze through a large work of classic literature with full comprehension and understanding beyond her years. However, a page of math with more than ten problems on it would cause her to break down in tears and lay her head down in defeat. I could recall having these same experiences during my own childhood, all the way through my college years. As a Gifted/ADHD learner, our daughter was overwhelmed by the magnitude of numbers on the text pages.

At the elementary level, in our homeschool we have used an assortment of homeschool curricula, all of which have included thirty to forty problems per lesson. As classic educators, we appreciate math drills, which help cement concepts in the mind. The difficulty arose as our daughter’s sheer anxiety over math prevented her from moving forward and completing enough problems to master the concepts.

The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling have allowed us to explore many curricula and programs so that we could reach a place of success, and the use of educational apps has truly revolutionized our homeschooling. We use educational apps in conjunction with our textbooks, workbooks, and other online supplementary programs.

As a matter of preference, we instruct our daughter to complete her written work of approximately twenty math problems, and then, as positive reinforcement, we use math apps daily for continued learning. By choice, our daughter will now complete, on average, one hundred problems a day in one math app alone.

Within most educational apps, the math problems are delivered one at a time and it becomes a challenge or game to achieve higher levels. After our daughter completes her curriculum app, she is then able to select a game (from among ten different math programs) to play for a short period of time. Since we have begun including the use of math apps in our daily homeschooling, our daughter smiles and no longer complains or breaks down in tears. She has progressed in her math learning, achieves more success on a daily basis, and is independently driven to complete additional math challenges. Recently, to my complete surprise, our daughter completed an entire chapter in her Algebra textbook over a two-day period because she found it to be such a “fun” challenge! For our family, educational apps have met a learning need and have allowed us to achieve mastery of concepts.

Is math your subject of dread? Or could it be biology, grammar, or a foreign language? Whatever subjects you or your student may struggle in, consider supplementing your core curriculum with educational apps or other interactive-digital media. They are tools that can serve as positive reinforcements, and they are especially helpful for struggling learners and special needs students.

For the month of March, I will highlight several educational math apps that we have found beneficial. Please note that the prices of apps listed are subject to change and may differ after publication.

Math

Fourth-Grade Math: Splash Math Worksheets by StudyPad, Inc.—iPad 
Age range: Elementary
Price: $9.99

Splash Math for fourth grade is one of the most comprehensive math apps that we have reviewed thus far! It includes ten chapters of core topics and 140 worksheets, with an average of twenty problems (per worksheet) that are delivered one at a time. Topics covered at this level include these: Place Value, Number Sense, Algebra, Multiplication I and II, Division, Fractions, Decimals, Measurement, and Geometry.

The features are astounding. You can assign worksheets, obtain daily reports, and have a weekly report delivered to your email. We use this math app on a daily basis in our homeschooling; it is a family favorite. Splash Math is available from first- through fourth-grade levels, and the developers are in the process of creating apps for fifth grade and sixth grade.

Operation Math by SpinLight Studio—iPhone/iPad
Age range: Elementary to Adult
Price: $0.99

This uber cool app will have your child begging to work on math drills each day! As “Agent Prime,” they can take on missions in math to stop the work of the evil Dr. Odd, who is on a quest to vanquish the world of numbers. Your student will work on basic math skills of increasing difficulty in the areas of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division while canvassing the world on a grand adventure.

The incentives earned include cool gear such as watches and uniforms. As your student completes each level, he will carry out 105 fascinating missions. Our daughter loves this app and uses it each day after her core studies.

Here are a few additional educational app picks for March:

Fine Arts

Shakespeare in Bits: Romeo & Juliet by Mindconnex Learning Ltd.—iPad
Price: Free version; $14.99 full app
Age range: Middle School to Adult

Prepare to experience the world of the Bard like never before! The free version of this app will allow you to experience the first few scenes of the classic tale. The full app is an unabridged multimedia journey that includes dynamic audio, video animation, literature text, and study notes. If you have a student studying Shakespeare and/or Romeo and Juliet, this app is one of the most beneficial tools you can find. Students will literally become immersed in the world of Romeo and Juliet and be provided with comprehensive study tools, character guides, relationship maps, and topical analysis to assist their study. Note: When using this app with younger students, parents should consider the mature themes contained in Shakespearean literature.

High School—College Prep

iTunes U by Apple—iPhone/iPad/iPod 
Price: Free
Age range: Elementary to Adult

This app is a must-have for homeschooling families! You can have the world’s largest digital content of class courses right at your fingertips. Students of all ages can access assorted digital media (literally astronomy to zoology and everything in between) from top colleges and universities in the United States and across the globe. Some classes include a broad range of course materials.

Geography

Stack the Countries by Dan Russell-Pinson—iPhone/iPad/iPod 
Price: $1.99
Age range: Elementary to Adult

This highly addictive geography app includes flashcards, games, interactive maps, and more that covers 193 countries of the world. Study countries, capitals, flags, continents, landmarks, and more as you enjoy entertaining games. If your child utilizes this app long enough, you just may find her exclaiming “Look! It’s Belize!” as she eats tortilla chips.

Sharra Badgley, along with her husband and two daughters, resides in central Indiana. Sharra writes about their family’s homeschooling journey, product reviews, and information on using apps in home education at The Homeschool Marm and blog.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: March 20, 2013