According to a recent in-depth research review I conducted of over 150 top math apps for young children, there are three apps that all 3 to 5 year-old children should have access to. These apps are much more than cool graphics and fun rewards. They are pedagogically sound, contain robust experiences with content, and will hold your young learner’s attention. Kids will be begging to play them over and over again.

1. Bugs and Numbers App by Little Bit Studios

If I had to pick my favorite math app for young learners, Bugs and Numbers would be it. In addition to upbeat background music and realistic bugs that are sure to please, this app contains 18 different activities (or different virtual manipulatives). Attempting to summarize the whole app in a short review doesn’t do it justice so I’ll touch on two of my favorite activities within it. The Train Station activity is perfect for young learners just beginning to be curious about time. In this activity the user sets the hands of the analog clock to match the time on the digital clock. Interaction cues show users what to attend to and how to interact with the clock. During the initial tasks the minute hand is constrained so the user learns that the shorter hour hand represents the hour. In another activity, users measure unique objects (like moldy cheese sandwiches and bowling pins) using a ruler. The ruler is constrained so that it may only move horizontally, which makes accurate measuring easy for young learners. This app also includes activities that address addition, subtraction, subitizing, matching quantity to numerals, early fraction concepts, and much more!

What’s the cost? - $2.99

Where can I download it? - iTunes

Why purchase this app?

  • Value- 18 different apps in one. Definitely worth the price.
  • Motivating- positive feedback, but no overwhelming reward systems
  • Flexible Activity Relationships- no levels to for little users to beat
  • Properly Sequenced Tasks- Appropriate learning progressions take users from simple tasks to more difficult ones

Other helpful reviews:

2. Gracie and Friends City Skate by First 8 Studios at WGBH

This app is part of a four game suite of apps developed through a National Science Foundation grant. I love all of the Gracie and Friends apps! In the City Skate app Gracie skates along the sidewalk to collect items for a party. The user makes Gracie jump or super jump by tapping or double tapping the screen to collect groups that contain the correct number of items. The app contains twenty similar levels, but the change in items, number, and tap type are enough to keep young learners very engaged. This app helps with many foundational number ideas including subitizing, number sense, and connecting numerals with quantities.  

What’s the cost? - Free

Where can I download it? - iTunes

Why purchase this app?

  • Properly Sequenced Tasks- Appropriate learning progressions take users from simple tasks to more difficult ones
  • Mathematics focus- the focus of the app is the mathematics, not other features
  • Simultaneous Linking- visual representations are linked to spoken numerals
  • Immediate Feedback- users know immediately if they have chosen an incorrect group

Other helpful reviews:

3. Montessori Numberland by Edoki Academy

Numberland is a unique app in which young learners experience number concepts by interacting with linked dynamic objects within open environments. For example, in the “eights” activity, users learn about “8” by tapping on 8 red flowers and 8 tropical birds as the app counts. They may also learn how to draw an 8 by tapping on the blue numeral 8 and watching the app draw the numeral. As users tap on different images within the activity, different “8” experiences become available. I particularly like this app because there are no set tasks. Young learners who are still at the stage of tapping on anything and everything on the screen, just to see what happens, will love this app (and learn a lot too). This app includes experiences for numbers and quantities 0 through 9.

What’s the cost? - $3.99

Where can I download this app? - iTunes

Why purchase this app?

  • Simultaneous Linking- visual representations are linked to spoken numerals
  • Motivating- users are free to explore each activity in their own way and at their own speed
  • Flexible Activity Relationships- no levels to for little users to beat

Other helpful reviews:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/montessori-numberland
https://www.graphite.org/app/montessori-numberland