Kids want to play games. Parents want kids to learn. For the adolescent crew, here is a start-up list of some of the best learning apps I’ve encountered for learning disability that will surely bring about a great meeting of the minds. We’re talking up to middle school age, so it’s not too babyish. Apps listed include itunes preview links, but if you’re not using Apple products, you should be able to find them in your operating system’s app store as well. If you want your kid to have fun while practicing basic skills, try these low-cost, teacher-tested, fun apps. They will provide immediate feedback in a way that just makes technology superior for sneaky self-practice. In other words, worksheet…move aside! You’ve been replaced by…
Mathmateer (Formerly Rocket Math) $0.99: This app is justification for buying a tablet if you have a kid who struggles with automaticity of math facts. It just doesn’t get any better than this gem. Basically, the player has to solve basic fact problems correctly in order to earn money to buy cool things for the rocket, which make it more fun to send the rocket into space…and solve more problems! It’s not rocket science, this is the smartest thing to happen to kids with math challenges (or not) since the calculator. It’s meant for basic math facts, but I occasionally pick it up and enjoy it, you will too.
Long Division $3.99: Don’t let the awful title and more awful price turn you away from this stroke of genius. Long division is a contrived concept that just doesn’t exist in the real space and time continuance. That’s how your kid feels if they have a learning disability and think in a very, very concrete way. All that talk about “carry the number” and borrow it ” leaves a a concrete thinker wondering what you’re carrying where and why…because it is, in fact, not real. However, after years of listening to this abstract construct, hoping it will just end because it just doesn’t make sense…watch your child stare in wide-eyed amazement as they perform multiplication and watch the product float to the spot in the long division problem where it belongs! Imagine the look on your kid’s face if you told them they could have the keys to the car five years before acquiring their permit and you wanted them to take some money out of your wallet too, just because. That’s the look they’ll have as they see, with immediate feedback NO lesson could ever provide, what long division is all about. The same developer has multiplication, etc. Check them out.
$0.99: This has in-app purchases but I’ll let it slide to gain a noteworthy spot on my list because they aren’t endless, and this app gets kids spelling. The in-app purchases provide sheets of characters such as Goodies and Baddies or Historical Figures to inspire fun scene combos. If your kid can spell it, it lands in the scene they’ve created. Picture Santa and Abraham Lincoln flying in to a beach scene on a pirate ship, eating cotton candy. It’s kind of like magic. There are no spelling assists, so I recommend using Siri or your phone’s autocorrect to find the correct spelling, then enter into Scribblenauts Remix. Sounds cumbersome, but looking up a spelling of a word in this joyful atmosphere will teach a little technology-savvy word research with low frustration and lots of reward.
$0.99: The classic pop-up letter word-search game costs about $17.99 for the box game. While I highly recommend real-live, 4-Dimensional games for good ol’ interactive family fun, kids with learning disabilities need more practice, and more fun, than you can provide on game night alone. Give it to ’em. Through the years, I have observed through lots of scholarly research that kids need more Boggle. Not buying it? Ok, here’s the truth. I’ve noticed, kids who have serious spelling challenges are often whizstorms at Boggle and it’s humbling facing them in this spelling classic. Anytime you can highlight something they’re good at and make them feel like the hero for a change, that’s a good thing. If this describes your kid, you need this. At the end of the round, Boggle provides a boggling list of correct words for them to check theirs against…instant, awesome, spelling feedback. They won’t even know it’s like school. Warning: gloating may follow enjoyment of this game.
Talking Tom Cat for ipad FREE: Talking Tom, and his league of similarly talking apps, are all just silly nonsense getting a cat to repeat your words, and sometimes even be a little rude. Kids with learning challenges are self-conscious. They’re afraid to look silly or wrong (really) and this loosens them up a little. They forget themselves and get lost in their own giggles. If they want the cat to talk back, they have to speak up and speak clearly. It works to banish the mumbles and the stage-fright too many years of being wrong can induce. Beware of in-app purchases and wanting to buy more talking apps, although Talking Tom and Ben News is a good time for gigglers who need to express themselves and have a good giggle.
Alarmed ~Reminders +Timers FREE: Habits are everything, and anything that helps teach structure to a kid who struggles enough is better than any Martha Stewart good idea. Tired of telling your kid it’s time to go to bed? Have them set a lights-out timer on this app. Want to limit summer-time gaming? Teach them how to structure their time by setting the timer when they sit down to play. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to do some chores (or vice-versa). These non-verbal reminders will free their thinking up to plan your favorite breakfast-in-bed menu item next Saturday morning. Yes, there’s an app for that, it’s a timer whose name is not mom or dad. It’s Alarmed~Reminders+Timers.
Pocket Pond HD Free: You will want the creature pack and/or pond packs for $1.99 each, but that’s ok. This amazingly soothing, incredibly real pond game is a little bit of kid Zen. Relaxation is important, and how often do we teach that? Who needs it more than a kid who experiences frustration? Don’t let Attack of the Warring Zombies on the game system be your kids’ only choice for relaxation. Let them relax, I assure you they’ve earned it. Going through the day with a learning challenge takes a lot of energy. Restore it with a Japanese pond landscape.
This is not the best or longest list of apps to teach basic facts and skills. It just comes with a guarantee, from experience, that kids will love each app on it.