Math on the iPad: Just Skill and Drill?

When searching for Math apps on the iPad, or even apps in education for that matter, one finds multiple flash card applications, games or speed focused skills-based activities. It is not surprising that these apps would flood the education category in the app store. Skill and Drill is how many of us experienced our own math education and therefore, it must be the best way for our children to learn math- right? Although research in education has proven time and time again that Skill and Drill alone does not lead to higher level thinking, success in immediate recall, especially in math, is still how we define “smart”.

I suggest we use the iPad as a creative tool. Educators can use the iPad as a tool along-side their student centered and developmentally appropriate teaching techniques. Yes skills are important and yes some of the apps that help develop skills can be helpful, but it seems a shame to use the iPad, which is such a powerful tool, as a glorified worksheet. It’s like buying a brand new car just so you can keep it parked in the driveway to use the AM radio.

The good news is that there are apps out there for math educators who focus on problem solving, process and communication. It takes a bit to search for, but here are a few I’ve found so far:

Sketch Pad 3 is an app that allows you to use your fingers like a pencil and the iPad surface like a canvas or a math notebook. It allows you to have grid lines in the background and customize those grid lines which helps students line up numbers and organize their thinking. As an educator, I would present a problem to the students and have them work out the solution on this interface. Students could then share their work with other students or to the rest of the class by hooking their iPad up to the Smart Board. An added bonus is students can add a voice note to their math solution as well as export their work which can then be uploaded to their digital portfolio.

Whiteboard Pro is an app much like Sketch Pad 3 however it allows for collaborative work. Using WiFi or Bluetooth, you can connect two devices and work together. As an educator, I would use this app when students are working in partners on a math project. Finished work can be uploaded to an online gallery which could be shared on the Smart Board for the rest of the class to see.

Montessori -Intro to Math This app is great for developing early number sense as it helps children understand number through 5 different activities from introducing how numbers work to exploring the beginning steps of addition.

Montessori- Hundreds Board This app mimics many of the hundred’s board activities one might teach in the classroom including identifying odds and evens.

iLiveMath Math problems in context using non-fiction content to entice children. What child wouldn’t love this! Interested in ocean life? Choose your level and answer math questions that involve under water animals! Results are immediately emailed to the teacher!

Geometry iPad App This app by Houghton Mifflin offers tutorials and real-world problems for students to solve.Test Prep is also integrated throughout which helps the student make stronger connections to the content and how it may appear on a test.

Tangram Puzzle Pro Tangrams. For the iPad. Need I say more?


About Kate Chechak

Kate Chechak is the author of She is an education consultant who previously worked at The School at Columbia University for 8 years. Currently, she focuses on teaching teachers how to integrate technology into their curriculum. In addition, she coaches math and is a curriculum developer.
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One Response to Math on the iPad: Just Skill and Drill?

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Back-To-School Apps! « homeschoolinghelicoptermama

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