Sunday, August 26, 2012

Teach Kids Math and Science - Wall Street Journal

Kids love smartphones and tablets, and that makes the devices great tools for learning math and science.

Apps for mobile devices can help make even the most abstract conceptsâ€"like algebra or physicsâ€"engaging. And smartphones and tablets can be carried out into nature to help students understand what they're seeing.

Star Walk, for example, identifies more than 20,000 objects in the night sky, including constellations, individual stars, planets, galaxies and even satellites currently overhead. The app is made by Vito Technology Inc. and costs $2.99 for the iPhone or iPod touch and $4.99 for the iPad. For fans of the space program, the free NASA App from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration includes thousands of space images, video, launch information and countdown clocks.

In an effort to make physics palatable, the Monster Physics app lets students 10 and up build their own virtual machines, from cars to rocket ships, using parts including wheels, wings, propellers, magnets, rockets and claws. Kids learn physics by building and refining their inventions and completing missions. The app, created by Dan Russell-Pinson, costs 99 cents for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. After trying it, my 11-year-old daughter said, "I love physics!" Mission accomplished.

Monster Physics

Monster Physics teaches the subject by letting kids build their own virtual machines.

On the biology front, the Frog Dissection app for the iPad, by Emantras Inc. ($3.99), is ideal for middle schoolers. It lets them dissect a virtual specimen, with step-by-step instructions and 3-D imaging. It's an accurate simulation of a lab dissection, minus the formaldehyde scent.

For young math students, the free app Fetch! Lunch Rush is a timed addition game for the iPhone and iPad that features the dog, Ruff Ruffman, from the PBS KIDS show "Fetch." Kids, or their parents, first need to print out coded sheets of paper, each with a number from 1 to 10. To play, you scatter the numbers around the room. Then Ruff gives a lunch order that involves a math problem, and when the kids solve the problem, they run to the sheet with the right answer and point the device's camera at it to get credit.

For more-advanced students, Mathemagics by Blue Lightning Labs teaches users to add, subtract, multiply, divide and square numbers in their heads at lightning-fast speed. The 99-cent app for Apple devices teaches tricks like how to quickly multiply by 99, square numbers in the 500s and add and subtract large numbers. It includes quick practice sessions that can be done in the car or waiting in line.

On a higher math level, DragonBox by WeWantToKnow AS helps students tackle algebraic equations by playing games. It costs $2.99 and works on both Android and Apple devices.

â€"Rachael King

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