George Lucas Educational Foundation
Mobile Learning

Using Math Apps to Increase Understanding

These 10 free or low-cost apps turn learning math into a game.
A girl looks at a math app on a tablet screen.
A girl looks at a math app on a tablet screen.
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From content consumption to content creation, there are many ways to use mobile devices with students. They can create how-to videos for authentic audiences, explain their thinking through screencasting, or use scannable technology in the math classroom, for example. Mobile devices can also be used to help students practice foundational math skills and build their math fluency. You might decide to use an app on this list as part of an intervention plan or add it to a newsletter for families.

In order for students to tackle the multistep word problems they’ll be asked to solve as early as elementary school, they need to have mastered addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts. If they can answer 4 + 12, 15 - 5, 9 x 7, and 18 ÷ 3 quickly and accurately, students can focus on reading word problems to figure out what those questions are asking them to do and apply their knowledge to real-world situations. There are tons of fun apps that help children build their math fluency through games and manipulatives. Check out some of these fantastic math tools available as mobile apps (for iOS or Android) and web apps (for any web browser).

Operation Math (iOS $2.99, Android $1.99) This app turns your students into spies who travel around the world on different missions. Kids can choose which operations they want to practice as they make their way through the app.

Number Frames (free for iOS, Chrome, and other web browsers) The Math Learning Center has lots of great resources for students, including interactive math tools to help students practice skills. With this tool, students explore the relationships between numbers as they represent each operation with virtual manipulatives. This free app gives kids the space to build a foundation that makes math fluency practice most meaningful.

Sushi Monster (iOS free) Scholastic’s app offers children multiplication and addition problems. They have to reach a target number by picking the correct factors and addends listed on different pieces of sushi.

Quick Math - Arithmetic & Times Tables (iOS $1.99) With this app, kids answer traditional skill-and-drill questions—but they don’t have to enter answers using a keypad. Instead, they can write the answer anywhere on the screen of their device, and the app reads their handwriting and records their response.

Number Line (free for iOS, Chrome, and other web browsers) This mobile and web app is perfect for helping students model their thinking as they explore different operations.

Pet Bingo by Duck Duck Moose (iOS $1.99, Android $1.99) In this game, children answer addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division questions and place their answers on a bingo board. The app is full of colorful cartoon characters and offers visual models to help students understand each problem.

Meerkat Math HD (iOS $1.99) This adventure app asks students to complete different races using math facts. In order to make their meerkat avatar run and jump fast enough to be a winner, they have to answer each question quickly and correctly.

10monkeys Multiplication (iOS $1.99, Android free) Kids can practice multiplication facts with this animated app. The goal is to help monkeys trapped in a tree escape by answering a set of questions correctly. This app is broken down into different times tables and includes a reference chart so kids can review facts.

Math Vs Zombies (iOS $4.99, Android free) This silly app asks children to add, subtract, multiply, or divide one- and two-digit numbers. Students need to answer each question correctly in order to zap the zombies back into humans.

YodelOh Math Mountain (iOS $2.99, Android $1.99) A virtual take on a traditional carnival game, this app helps children practice all four operations. They have to work quickly so that the yodeler doesn’t fall from the top of the mountain.

Whether I’m leading a professional development session or having a casual conversation with a fellow educator, I often use the phrase “tasks before apps.” As you explore the tools on this list, make sure you’ve identified your learning objectives and think about which tools will help students achieve those goals.

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Liv's picture

I find this article very creative and useful. It makes learning for students fun and easier allowing for them to be able to succeed in math no matter the level, especially if they start at a young age.

nancyj15's picture

This article was interesting, I like the idea of having apps to make math fun because that is a subject that the majority of students struggle with. Giving them apps that will keep them interested and intrigued will help them in the end.

Jim Kelly's picture
Jim Kelly
Providing OER resource links to improve k-12th grade mathematics.

Appreciate the information, but what grade level are they being used on or intended for?
Thank you.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Jim, the apps cover a range of grade levels, but most seem to be either elementary or middle school.

Erik Yates's picture
Erik Yates
International School Teacher & Program Director at Global Learning NJ

With a headline like this, I would have expected a list of apps that help students understand math. This list is simply fact fluency apps. I'd really like to see a review of apps that help a child learn multiplication and division (among other math skills) independently. For example, let's say a second grade teacher has a student who is ready for multiplication but she's busy nailing down addition and subtraction with the rest of the class. An app that would allow some self-study on the part of even the second grader would be great.

Jeffrey Holmes's picture

Box Drop Math by Twenda Learning is a fun way for kids to master math facts. It has a progress graph for teachers and you can select specific numbers to focus on as well.

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