iPad apps for elementary school

We are introducing 30 iPads to our elementary school next year, and we are currently exploring what apps to put onto them. We have some suggestions as a place to get started, but I’ve been tasked with coming up with a list of useful apps for the iPads. I’m currently looking through my list of resources I’ve bookmarked for the iPad and deciding which of these apps I’ve seen will be most useful in our school’s context. (The screen-shots below are taken from the linked iTunes page).

  1. Move the Turtle

    Move the Turtle screen-shot

    This app both teaches kids how to use it (through a series of interactive puzzles) and allows students to create their own projects. It is based on the Logo programming language, but written using a sequence of commands chosen from the menu, rather than by typing. It works on the iPhone as well, but unfortunately (due to an issue with the Apple TOC) programs created with it cannot be shared.

  2. Tinkerbox

    Tinkerbox screen-shot

    This app allows students to build equipment to try and solve puzzles (which are based on physics concepts). I’ve not tried it out myself, but it is free, and so I’m going to at least try it out with the students.

  3. Show Me

    Show Me app

    This app allows students to draw and record their voice while drawing, letting them create a voice-over narration. It could be used for student created tutorials, stories, and animations. According to the description of this app, the videos created can be uploaded and shared via the ShowMe.com website.

  4. Motion Math

    Motion Math screen-shot

    The series of apps Motion Math makes for the iPhone and iPad are excellent, because they are more than just the typical flash card apps that are all too common in the app store for math. I’ve played with the fraction one myself (so has my son) and enjoyed using it, and seeing how it creates an alternate representation of fractions. This representation is hardly sufficient for students to completely understand fractions, but I’m sure it helps.

  5. Sketchpad

    Sketchpad app

    I’ve not used this app myself, but it comes recommended from Trever Reeh. From conversations with the mathematics teachers who work with Sketchpad, and from my time spent using Geometer’s Sketchpad a few years ago, I’m pretty sure this app will be useful. On the app description page, they note that they have activities built into it, which is encouraging.

  6. DragonBox

    DragonBox screen-shot

    DragonBox is a puzzle-game which tries to teach algebraic reasoning. It replaces algebraic symbols with visual representations (which are still themselves an abstraction of some arithmetic concepts) and then allows students to manipulate the symbols to try and solve the puzzles, which are all equivalent to standard algebra problems. It has a PC version which runs in the browswer and I have tried out as well. This is not a flash app so students can practice algebra – this game will try and teach students.

  7. Shuttle Mission Math

    Shuttle Mission Math screen-shot

    I’ve not tried this puzzle-game out myself, but I have used the paper and pencil version of the types of puzzles presented in this game with my students, and I found them very useful. Through solving the puzzles, students will have to employ (and learn) algebraic reasoning skills, which are explicitly described on the support page for this game.

  8. Scribblenauts

    Scribblenauts screen-shot

    This game allows students to type in words, get presented with images that represent those words, and use the images to solve a puzzle presented. The students have an enormous amount of freedom in what words they choose, and what images result. My son has loved playing this game, and spends his time playing it constantly asking us how to spell words, which he seems to be able to (mostly) remember for the next time he wants that particular item. 


These are some of the apps I’m looking into. I’d also like further recommendations. I’m looking specifically for iPad apps which:

  1. Are not just skill practicing / flash card apps. There are thousands of these, so finding them is easy, should our teachers want to use them.
  2. I’m hoping to find apps which will actually help teach concepts, rather than just review existing concepts. I’d like this teaching to be of the non-explaining-type teaching style, and more of the discovery-it-yourself-inside-a-guided-framework style of teaching. I can find things like the Khan Academy for myself fairly easily, but finding apps which support our inquiry-based teaching program in our elementary school is a bit more of a challenge.


  • We’ve used Explain Everything, which is like Show Me – and very good for allowing students to create their own “how to” videos. For the younger children, DoodleCast allows them to more easily share their thinking. And for our primary teachers, DoodleBuddy was a must for creating (among other things) math stories. We love the open-ended applications. For example, using the camera and a story app (like StoryKit or BookCreator) was spectacular for a measurement unit.

  • One of the main advantage of Explain Everything is that you can upload you recording in many format and also to DropBox, Evernote, email, etc and directly to youtube. This feature is really convenient if you want to use this recording in a bigger movie project including many clips.

    Most of the other screencast app require you to send the output to their web site, which I don’t really like.

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