The 50 Best iPad and iPhone Educational Apps of 2014

Dec 30, 2014
Tech

Here are the best of the best iPhone and iPad apps for education that challenge students and expertly use the iOS platform, listed by the age groups: Preschool and Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. In addition, we included five organizational apps that benefit students and teachers.

Here are the best of the best iPhone and iPad apps for education that challenge students and expertly use the iOS platform, listed by the age groups: Preschool and Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, and High School. In addition, we included five organizational apps that benefit students and teachers.

Editor’s Note: appoLearning expert Monica Burns contributed to the app selections made for this article.

Preschool and Kindergarten (Ages 5 and under)

 

Intro to Letters, by Montessorium ($4.99)

Developer: Montessorium, LLC

Intro to Letters, by Montessorium is a wonderful app for early learners, as they are given a variety of ways to interact with different letters and letter sounds. This app allows kids to record their own voice sounding out letters and asks them to engage with the alphabet by tracing letters as they learn letter names and trace phonograms as they learn letter sounds. A distinction is made between lowercase and uppercase letters and children can connect the two in the flashcard portion of this app.

Curious About Me ($3.99)

Developer: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Curious About Me lets children interact with the characters from the Curious George series. They can build their own storybook movie by snapping pictures and providing information about themselves. It’s a great app for engaging young children with characters from this classic series as they explore storytelling tools.

 

Learn with Homer (Free)

Developer: Homer

The 2014 update to the popular Learn With Homer literacy app for children ages 3-8 allowed users to access all of Learn With Homer’s content through a subscription service instead of downloading individual pieces of content. Members can add four children to their account when they sign up for the monthly or yearly package. In addition to unlimited content, their new Pigeon Post feature lets family members interact with children by sending messages through Learn With Homer.

Leonard ($2.99)

Developer: Ink Robin

Leonard by Ink Robin is a whimsical app in which kids can access an interactive storybook to listen to or read independently. As they read through the story, kids can tap the screen, move objects and see the characters change as they swipe from side to side. The engaging narration will grab and hold your child’s attention as they work their way through each page.

Hat Monkey ($2.99)

Developer: Fox and Sheep GmbH

Hat Monkey is an engaging, interactive picture book for preschool students. It has a simple interface with a silly main character that will make users young and old smile. This app includes activities built in to each page so children can give the monkey a high five, send it text messages, and find it as it hides around a room.

My Very Hungry Caterpillar ($3.99)

Developer: StoryToys Entertainment Limited

My Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic children’s story that reads well on the iPad. It permits youngsters to take care of their own virtual caterpillar pet and unlock surprises. Kids will love how this app, which is also available for iPhone, gives them an opportunity to interact with a beloved storybook in a completely special way.

Nighty Night! HD ($0.99)

Developer: Fox and Sheep GmbH

Nighty Night! HD is beautifully illustrated and will definitely capture your preschooler’s attention. It has whimsical music and animation that optimizes the large, high-quality screen of the iPad. Your youngsters will love how the iPad can turn into a storybook with a quick tap on the screen. There are interactive animals and the option for the book to be read aloud on autoplay.

 

Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda (Free)

Developer: Launchpad Toys

The best part of Toontastic Jr. Kung Fu Panda is its StoryShare feature. Children can connect with a user on another device that also owns this app, then create the story together using their two devices, adding dialogue and moving their characters in each scene. When they are deciding what to do next, there is even a walkie talkie feature that lets them speak to their friend or family member using the iPad microphone. A double authentication system lets parents enter the email address of the person with whom their child wants to connect.

 

Fit Brains for Kid: Sparky’s Adventures (Free)

Developer: Rosetta Stone Canada

Most brain training applications are targeted to lifelong learners. Enter Fit Brains for Kids: Sparky’s Adventures, developed by Dr. Paul Nussbaum, as the answer to giving preschoolers a chance to participate in similar mental workouts. Exercises are led by Sparky, a cartoon firefly that cheers on your youngster as they tackle matching, sorting, hidden objects, shape sizes, and more.

Fun with Colors – Learn Color Names and Draw ($2.99)

Developer: Bastei Luebbe AG

Primary school students and preschoolers will absolutely love Fun with Colors – Learn Color Names and Draw. This kid-friendly app promotes discovery learning and gives kids a chance to interact with colors in a variety of ways. Children can draw their own pictures and see the colors they choose move about the screen, or they can match colors to different animals and objects.

Bug Art ($1.99)

Developer: Little Bit Studio

With this playful app your kids can free paint on different backgrounds including virtual coloring book pages or design their own bugs using stencils. Bug Art also includes a few games where children will fly like a butterfly and race beetles across their screen. The high quality graphics and vibrant interface are truly impressive.

Busy Shapes ($1.99)

Developer: Seven Academy

Similar to the traditional wood block shape sorting games, the Busy Shapes iPad app asks students to sort different shapes by dropping them in the corresponding outlines on the screen. They need to move squares into square shaped holes and hexagons into the correct place on their screen. As a bonus, Busy Shapes monitors each student’s progress and gives feedback to parents.

Elementary School (Ages 6 to 10)

Star Walk™ Kids – Explore Space & Planets ($0.99)

Developer: Vito Technology Inc.

In Star Walk Kids, actors narrate facts about space topics including constellations and planets. Cartoon versions of the former with key information—number of stars, Latin names, and brightest star—appear on your iPhone or iPad screen. Even cooler, kids can see the location of the International Space Station at all times and the app serves as a fantastic introduction to the Solar System. Star Walk Kids is very easy-to-navigate and sure to improve device literacy among children.

iPollute ($2.99)

Developer: Bulkypix

iPollute, an amusing game from developer Bulkypix, employs stop motion and claymation to demonstrate how human beings negatively and positively impact nature. Players take over a valley, earning Greencoins and unearthing hidden stars along the way, and have the power to either sustain the ecosystem’s greenness or transform it into a barren wasteland overflowing with pollution. iPollute is wildly unique in gameplay and presentation, earning honorable mention at the 2014 Game Developers Conference for the Best in Play category.

Motion Math: Pizza! ($3.99)

Developer: Motion Math

Motion Math: Pizza! is a simulation game that teaches math students financial pragmatism; they will develop a stronger sense of economics by working through calculations in their heads and purchasing ingredients. Great for fifth graders, this game can also contribute to a student’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. To curb frustration brought on by the game’s fast pace, help your child and turn the pizzeria into an authentic family business.

 

TeleStory ($4.99)

Developer: Launchpad Toys

If you’re a fan of Toontastic you will absolutely love Launchpad Toy’s app TeleStory. This super fun app lets kids create their own broadcast to share with friends and families. Children can use pre-made templates and digital costumes in their broadcasts and even use special effects. Kids can easily and safely share their creations on ToonTube, a website designed to host lots of videos made by children.

 

Mini Monet – Creative Studio and Art Club for Kids ($2.99)

Developer: Sprite Kids

The award-winning Mini Monet is the quintessential coloring book app for iOS 8. With 120 pages and weekly artistic challenges, kids will spend loads of time expressing their creativity. The drawing and painting tools are very intuitive, requiring little guidance from parents or teachers. The Art Club section connects young artists to each other, providing a social response experience that is secure.

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Curious Ruler ($0.99)

Developer: Curious Hat

Curious Ruler asks users to choose a common household item like a LEGO brick or a penny as a unit of measurement. Kids put this item and another they’d like to measure in front of the camera on their iPad. The app uses the length of the object it knows (like a penny) and determines the length of the new object by comparing their size. It’s a great conversation starter for families and a unique way for kids to interact with an important math skill.

 

Stephen Hawking’s Snapshots of the Universe ($3.99)

Developer: Random House LLC

Stephen Hawking’s Snapshots of the Universe guides children through a variety of activities that help them understand the intricacies of our universe. They can play around with planets orbiting the sun and explore principles of gravity. The high-quality graphics and cartoon animation make this app informative and visually stunning. The app provides students with tons of information and thought provoking questions.

Piiig Labs: Science Experiments for Kids ($2.99)

Developer: Piiig Inc.

Piiig Labs brings a digital science kit straight to your child’s iPad. Using this bright and colorful app, elementary students can explore how to build an electrical circuit before watching how baking soda helps simulate a volcanic eruption. This app will increase your children’s science vocabulary and build a foundation for the science experiments they’ll do in their classroom.

King of Math ($1.99)

Developer: Oddrobo Software AB

This exceptional game challenges players to answer questions in many mathematics subjects, from addition and subtraction to statistics and equations. Students start off as farmers climbing the societal ladder by correctly answering math questions. The game is fantastic for improving problem solving skills and efficacy with numeracy. Besting the app will take some time, as there are is a high volume of in-game achievements and stars to collect. Students will want to improve their level, because no one wants to be the court jester!

ScratchJr (Free)

Developer: MIT Media Lab, Tufts University, and Playful Invention Company

ScratchJr slyly teaches coding to elementary school students, combining programming with games and interactive stories. The iPad app lets students choose from 28 backgrounds and dozens of identifiable animals, buildings, vehicles, and objects to include in their customizable project. From the home screen parents and children can access sample projects and guides to the interface, paint editor, and types of action blocks. All of these tools are impressive in their design and implementation.

Slice Fractions ($2.99)

Developer: Ululab

Slice Fractions was released in February and takes children on a journey where they will discover how fractions work in a virtual game world. This slicing game will provide a foundation for higher level math discovery as children help a wooly mammoth travel through an icy cartoon landscape. Slice Fractions is Common Core-aligned and developer Ululab tends to update content every few months.

Toca Nature ($2.99)

Developer: Toca Bocca

Toca Nature is the latest addition to developer Toca Boca’s handful of terrific apps in the App Store. With this app children can create their own landscapes full of plants and animals. Elementary schoolers will love how it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and design a world of their own right on their iPad. This colorful app gives children lots of options and combines play with higher order thinking skills.

WeCookit ($2.99)

Developer: Mango Tree Ltd

Full of creative recipes that are perfect for elementary and middle school aged children, WeCookit makes it simple to follow the correct steps for different recipes. This app is broken down into categories like Fruit & Vegetables, Treats, and Pasta & Noodles. For each whimsical recipe kids can access a shopping list, see what kitchen tools are needed, and read each step as they look at a clear picture that breaks down the preparation and cooking processes.

Middle School (Ages 11 to 13)

American Interior ($4.99)

Developer: Penguin Books

Students with an interest in Social Studies will like this new app from Penguin Books. This visually engaging app is full of mysterious unread messages told to users through video clips, images and text. Middle school students can dig in and explore as they find the difference between myth and truth behind the parallel stories told within American Interior.

 

NLM Native Voices (Free)

Developer: National Library of Medicine

The NLM Native Voices iPad app presents an exhibit aimed at exploring “the interconnectedness of wellness, illness, and cultural life for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.” There are sections dedicated to Navajo Code Talkers, Art, and several professionally produced videos that introduce visitors to the entire Native Voices project.

Shadow Puppet Edu (Free)

Developer: Shadow Puppet, Inc.

Shadow Puppet Edu is a great app for kids of all ages. Although Shadow Puppet has been around for awhile, they released a new version over the summer designed with kids in mind. They can create narrated slideshows that tell a story. This app has tons of options for kids and the ability to use your own photographs or search within the app for stock images.

Quick Fractions ($1.99)

Developer: Shiny Things

Quick Fractions helps children practice finding equivalent fractions, comparing two different fractions and working with operations. A great pick for kids needing extra practice, they will use what they know to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems at a few different levels. Instead of simply typing in or picking multiple choice answers, students can write their answer anywhere on the screen. Quick Fractions uses handwriting recognition technology to take whatever number students write and decide if they’ve given the correct answer.

Interaction of Color by Josef Albers (Free)

Developer: Yale University Press

With Interaction of Color by Josef Albers students can explore different color palettes and get creative as they mix and match to see the relationship between each. This app includes a text with interactive multimedia features that provide a thorough overview of color and design theory. Students who are interested in art and art history will dive into this powerful app.

123D Sculpt (Free)

Developer: Autodesk, Inc.

Another sensational iPad app from the series of creative programs, 123D Sculpt launches with a concise tutorial before presenting the basic shapes of creatures, geometrical figures, and objects. Students will sense the magic within the app, as they can take plain digital sculptures and mutate or refine them to satisfy their artistic whims.

Math 42 (Free)

Developer: Cogeon GmbH

Math 42 is a godsend for students that benefit from a slower pace. This handy and free iOS app, which boasts 380 plus exercises per topic, walks students through every step of a math problem, provides practice tests and immediate progress feedback, and abstains from relying on preformed answers through artificial intelligence. Topics range from Fractions to Quadratic Equations to Polynomials. Math 42 works offline, so students can avoid web-surfing or other distractions that require a Wi-Fi connection.

The Elements in Action ($3.99)

Developer: Touch Press

The Elements in Action app was developed by Touch Press, creators of The Elements: A Visual Exploration and Barefoot World Atlas. The iOS app uses videos to show how 79 out of the 115 elements react in different situations. These little experiments are entertaining and informative, and provide a safe space for observing wild chemical reactions! For example, students can watch a timelapse of Strontium (Sr) oxidizing to see how its properties change.

VSCO Cam (Free)

Developer: Visual Supply Company

VSCO Cam is extremely popular, and definitely deserves all the overexposure. The free app includes numerous preset filters and offers others in their store for as low as $0.99 each. The recent update to this outstanding photography app includes advanced camera controls. Students can import existing images for editing, compare originals with polished photo drafts, and visit VSCO Journal for all sorts of useful information, including tutorials.

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Tynker (Free)

Developer: Tynker

The Tynker iPad app offers a fresh take on coding games that is perfect for middle school aged children. With this app your students can explore basic programming skills through kid-friendly activities. There are helpful hints that make is simple for children to figure out to give instructions to an astronaut or turtle to move across their iPad screen. Tynker absolutely is a terrific app for introducing coding to kids.

High School (Ages 14 to 18)

Molecules by Theodore Gray ($13.99)

Developer: Touch Press

High school students studying chemistry will love the most recent update to Molecules by Theodore Gray. This interactive app helps students learn about different molecules with amazing graphics and tons of information. With this new update teenagers can access 348 molecules straight from their device. It’s ideal companion to a science classroom.

 

MathX – Scientific Graphing Calculator ($0.99)

Developer: Bunuël Cubo Soto

MathX is a tremendous scientific graphing calculator for students studying the ‘big three’ subsections of mathematics: Trigonometry, Geometry, or Algebra. They can compare seven functions at the same time. Belgium-based developer Bunuël Cubo Soto, who was named a Apple developer scholarship recipient in 2013, made sure that MathX’s latest update improved its compatibility with iOS 8, including support for larger devices like the iPhone 6 Plus, dynamic type, and the ability to export PDFs and other documents to third-party productivity apps.

Algebra Touch ($2.99)

Developer: Regular Berry Software LLC

Students working through challenging math problems will absolutely love having Algebra Touch loaded on their iPad. This app lets kids explore a variety of algebra problems. Kids can drag numbers across their screen or cross out any numbers they want to remove. There are a handful of different topics to choose from including equations and like terms. Students also have the option to create their own set of problems within the app.

Incredible Numbers by Professor Ian Stewart ($9.99)

Developer: Touch Press

Incredible Numbers by Professor Ian Stewart is definitely an impressive app. A good fit for students in upper elementary, middle and high school this interactive math app has articles, interactive diagrams and puzzles. Kids can read about prime numbers, polygons and infinity, or manipulate a wave when learning about the relationship between math and music. This stunning app is a great choice for students naturally curious about math or who could benefit from exploring math topics outside of the classroom.

Ken Burns (Free)

Developer: Ken Burns Media LLC

The powerful Ken Burns app includes selections from a variety of his influential documentaries that give kids a peek into different moments in American History. This app is organized by categories including Hard Times, Politics, and Race. Students can also swipe through the timeline to access clips laid out chronologically such as Women’s Suffrage, Gettysburg, and The Nez Perce. The Innovation section comes free with download, and the other parts can be unlocked with an in-app purchase of $9.99.

Star Walk™ 2 – Guide to the Sky Day and Night ($2.99)

Developer: Vito Technology Inc.

What’s not to love about Star Walk 2? In terms of quality, it is galaxies ahead of every other astrology and stargazing app available on the iTunes App Store. The educational value pulses through the interface in advanced mapping coordinates and three-dimensional representations of constellations, satellites, dwarf planets, nebulae, and other celestial perks. The Star Walk 2 app is a beauty to behold on iOS 8, and the developers recently corrected a bug users were experiencing with in-app purchases.

BioDigital Human – Anatomy and Health Conditions in 3D! (Free)

Developer: BioDigital Inc

This scientific application presents human anatomy in striking detail. The free version offers interactive 3D models of the musculoskeletal system, heart, and a cross section of the eye. Students simply tap on the anatomical part they want to learn about and the app displays the name and description, often fetched from Wikipedia. What separates BioDigital Human from other anatomy apps is the toolbar, which features quizzes, search, views for x-ray and isolating individual parts, drawing for labeling the models in real-time, and a virtual surgical knife for dissection!

Duolingo – Learn Languages for Free (Free)

Developer: Duolingo

The free Duolingo app, which brandishes mini-games for improving language fluency, updated its offering in tandem with the launch of iOS 8. Apart from increasing image quality for the iPhone 6 Plus’ higher resolution, the developers added a widget for their app, viewable in the Notifications Center. This means that no matter which app a student is using, her or she can engage with Duolingo directly from a push notification. Upon launch, Duolingo prompts users to take a placement test or start as a beginner; this introductory process and other lessons are made easier by dynamic type.

Elevate – Brain Training (Free)

Developer: Elevate, Inc.

Elevate – Brain Training was named Apple’s best app of the 2014 and for good reason. Elevate tracks performance efficiency and highlights your best numeric score with an angular diagram of the human brain. All brain games fall under five main subjects: Listening, Math, Reading, Speaking, and Writing. Examples of exercises include Brevity, which tests your ability to remove redundant words and phrases from sentences, and Processing, which improves reading speed.

 

iCitizen (Free)

Developer: iCitizen Corporation

iCitizen is a resourceful mobile app for introducing students to governance and inspiring dutiful citizenship. This free service provides up-to-the-minute news and allows users to customize feeds around specific political, social, and economic issues. This alone makes it an amazing supplement for students researching ongoing debates on current event topics. With the teacher guidance and encouragement, students can truly embrace iCitizen’s “Make your voice count” slogan!

Organizational/Other

ClassDojo (Free)

Developer: Class Twist Inc

ClassDojo is a fantastic free app that makes collecting student behavior data simple and easy. A great extension of the web based platform, the ClassDojo allows users to set up class lists and keep track of student behavior. Reward points to students for participation, hard work, and persistence or deduct points for disruption, disrespect or talking out. Teachers can customize this system to match the keywords they use in their classroom or school for behavior expectations. Project your iPad’s screen to show students how the whole class is performing.

Subtext (Free)

Developer: Subtext

The free Subtext iPad app provides a unique and interactive reading experience for teachers and students. After creating a classroom group, you can use Subtext’s resourceful public library, which incorporates Google Books and the Associated Press, to upload books and articles that are ripe for critical analysis and lively discussion. Teachers can insert assignments, questions, polls, or just interesting notes for the entire class.

 

Study Cal ($1.99)

Developer: Nicholas Doherty

StudyCal belongs in the pantheon of sensational homework tracking apps. Through the wonders of iCloud syncing all of a student’s courses, assignments, grades, notes and important reminders are linked across all devices. StudyCal even produces small graphs showing grade progress based on logged assignments, as well as overall GPA and shows what percentage is needed on an assignment or upcoming test to maintain one’s current letter grade. If a student thrives on organization, StudyCal is a pairing that can last from middle school through the college level.

Post-It Plus (Free)

Developer: 3M Company

While at first glance it seems like this productivity app has zero educational value, students of all ages will be amazed when they try out the Post-it Plus app for iPad. This app lets users snap a picture of their Post-it Notes to easily organize them on their iPad. They can rearrange the sticky notes and create boards straight from their device.

 

Remind (Free)

Developer: remind101

Remind: Safe Classroom Communication provides an innovative messaging system for teachers. The app’s creation was inspired by a Harvard University study that found teacher to parent communication significantly increases the completion of homework and other assignments. Teachers can use this app to message, remind, assign homework, and send words of encouragement to students and parents.

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Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for appoLearning.com, AndroidApps.com, and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere.

He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).

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