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Moving Young Minds with Middle School Math Apps

§ August 8th, 2012 Comments Off on Moving Young Minds with Middle School Math Apps§ Filed under Math, motivation, Other Voices, Teaching Math, Technology in Education § Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

With over 650,000 apps in the App Store, how do you determine what’s really worth your time, and in some cases, money? As a middle school math teacher and summer math enrichment program director, I’m always looking for new games and ways to engage my students. I have spent countless hours scouring the App Store, downloading and testing out various apps, sometimes even getting addicted to some myself! Without further ado, here is my list of the five best math apps currently on the market.

– I work with a wide age range of kids ages 6-16 and I have yet to encounter a student who doesn’t get excited when this game starts. The competitor in all of us comes out and the brain starts working. In this two-person racing game, the screen is split into two with a child working on either side. For every correct problem solved, the car moves further down the track. The goal is simple: cross the finish line first. Easy, medium, and hard settings allow students of all ability levels to play against each other at appropriate levels. Adjusting the speed of the cars can shorten or lengthen make the game. All in all, this is an excellent game for practicing whole number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.


Combine 4! – One of my favorite games that I have spent incalculable hours playing. (Look on the global leader board for the guy named “Harris” and see how much I’ve played!). This app, based on the math card game “24”, is a game for middle school students to learn the order of operations and to improve number sense. The goal is to create the number 24 with four cards – numbered 1 through 12 – while using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Sounds easy? Not necessarily. The process is the hard part. With 1362 ways to make 24, this game will keep you busy for days. A great thinking game for small kids and big kids alike!


Elevated Math – This app is an excellent teaching app that teaches basic math through Algebra 1. Utilizing cartoons and humor, this app engages kids on various levels. Being an Algebra 1 teacher myself, I appreciate how this app breaks down Algebra into small, easy to understand parts. It pauses frequently to allow students to write notes and complete problems on a provided whiteboard feature. My favorite feature of the program is its ability to help teachers answer the age-old question, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?” Its “career video” section has interviews with professionals discussing how they use math in their everyday lives. A great way to show kids why they need to learn math!


Motion Math – In this app, the understanding of fractions and percents are presented in a kinesthetic way. The user must move their device left and right to correctly place a floating ball containing a fraction or percent on the right place of a zero to one number line. Fractions are represented both visually and numerically. Just when you think you have the hang of it, Motion Math introduces a new number line such as -2 to 2 or 0 to 2. This game is a great way to teach students about fractions and to feel comfortable working with them. If you don’t place the ball on the exact right spot, the app assists you on where it should go. When the game is mastered, you’ll have an exceptional understanding of fractions and percents.


Cross Fingers – In this tangram puzzle game, your brain will be put to the test. Maneuvering pieces into the right places using one, two, or sometimes three hands, the game quickly lives up to its name. This game will test your dexterity and your spatial awareness as you move different shaped pieces around a board filled with obstacles. While the game is easy through the first ten levels or so, the difficulty increases and provides a challenge for students of all ages and ability levels. With over 660 levels now available, this game is a winner for its simplistic, yet challenging nature.

– Jeff Harris teaches at Hawthorne School in Beverly Hills and runs the summer program “The Beverly Hills Math Factor” (

Jeff and three of his students



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