Back to (Elementary) School: Essential Apps for K-5

Kids in kindergarten through fifth grade will love these five learning apps.

By Jacqueline Emigh

Now that your elementary school kids are back in school, they've got some new challenges in the academic year ahead. We've rounded up five apps we think your children will love that they can use to gain new skills and knowledge.

iTooch Elementary

Kids in 41 states now study course materials that comply with the Common Core Standards, a stringent set of requirements for language arts and math. As early as kindergarten, children start learning geometry and "measurement and data" skills, for example.

With 25,000 exercises, iTooch Elementary may well offer the largest collection of Core-compliant activities for grades 1 to 5. Kids in grades 1 and 2 study language arts and math. Kids in grades 3 though 5 get instruction in science to complement the other two subjects.

Guided by a cute, animated iTooch mascot, your kids can study tons of lessons, answering questions at the end of each lesson and earning points for correct responses.

If a student takes too long to answer, the mascot might fall asleep or go fishing (for instance). But kids can always ask the iTooch mascot for help. If a child touches the mascot, a detailed lesson summary will show up on a separate screen.

The software greets correct answers with cheers and drumrolls. Your kids can keep track of how they're doing in iTooch by looking at a progress chart.

Many schools actually use an ad-free edition of this app in the classroom. In addition, parents and other members of the public can download ad-supported editions of the app for both iOS and Android.

In comments posted on app store sites, parents have said that they found iTooch to be a great way of supplementing classroom instruction during the school year, or of keeping their kids involved in learning during summer vacation and other school breaks.

You can download a free trial version of grades 1 though 5 of iTooch for iOS from Apple's App Store. Free trial versions of grades 3 through 5 of iTooch for Android are available on the Amazon App Store and Google Play. The trial versions are ad-supported.

After the one-month trial, you can pay to download ad-supported versions of specific titles—such as Grade 4 Language Arts or Grade 5 Math—as in-app purchases at $5.99 each. On Google Play, each grade of iTooch is located on a different page. If you want the grade 5 course materials, for instance, search for "iTooch Grade 5." Again the going rate for in-app purchases of specific full titles is $5.99 each.

In Grade 4 Language Arts, for example, your kid can choose to study reading, writing, punctuation, vocabulary, research, or communications. In Grade 5 Math, a Core-compliant fractions unit will teach your kid how to add fractions that have different denominators, as in 1/4 + 2/3 = 11/12.

ABCmouse

If you have children in preschool, kindergarten, or first grade, ABCmouse will provide them with a rich and stimulating learning environment. The app is aligned with the Common Core to give your kids a leg up on the course materials they will face at higher grade levels.

In ABCmouse, your youngsters can learn about everything from shapes and colors to reading, math, art, music, and beginning science. To help get them excited and intrigued about what they're learning, the app invites them to take part in interactive games, songs, books, paint-by-numbers, jigsaw and cutout puzzles, and much more.

Each of your kids receive an avatar and a "virtual room"—and they can customize the appearance of both. They can also explore "Step-by-Step Learning Environments" such as a tropical rainforest, a coral reef, and a prairie habitat. They can go on "virtual field trips" to a zoo, a farm, and an aquarium.

Designed for youngsters from 2 through 7, this beautifully animated ad-free app includes so much educational material that your child can use it for years.

Subscription-based pricing is $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year for either iOS or Android. You can also get a one-month free trial.

Operation Math

Aimed at elementary school kids of all ages, Operation Math is designed to turn math into a thrilling learning adventure.

Using their math skills, your kids try to prevent the evil Dr. Odd from eliminating all of the world's even numbers. In doing so, they get lots of practice in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The global spying adventure includes 105 "missions" against Dr. Odd, at three levels of arithmetic. The top level is tough enough for many adults, so you might want to join in on the fun, too.

Priced at $2.99, Operation Math is downloadable in versions from Apple's App Store, the Amazon App Store, and Google Play. If your kid is going to play with friends or other family members, you can buy a multiplayer version—Operation Math: Code Squad—also for $2.99 in three versions. It supports use by up to four players.

FlashToPass

Early math calls for a lot of memorization. You know, like multiplication tables.

FlashToPass brings the traditional flash card model of learning to mobile devices, with plenty of cool animations and sound effects.

Tooled to appeal to kids at all elementary grade levels, the app offers six difficulty levels across five math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and mixed operations.

The difficulty levels in the app correspond to K-5 grade levels, except that the sixth difficulty level in the app is extremely hard for elementary school students. So a kid in grade 1 will probably want to choose the first difficulty level; and if in fifth grade, the fifth difficulty level.

Your kid will enjoy being able to set a timer, measure speed, and turn on speech recognition so they can speak the answers rather than typing them on a keyboard. When children perform well, they see a "congrats" screen.

Kids and parents say that the app is especially helpful in prepping for classroom math quizzes.

An ad-free paid edition for iOS is priced at 99 cents and is downloadable from the Apple Store.

Learn with Homer

Designed for 2- to 8-year-olds, Learn with Homer—an app developed by senior advisors to the Core Standards—presents a captivating environment for learning to read as well as for building advanced knowledge of other subjects.

After choosing their seats on "Homer's Carousel," your children will embark on an extensive range of enjoyable learning experiences. They can participate in reading activities that include more than a thousand phonics lessons; 60 "first reader" ebooks; and more than 200 stories from a library of additional ebooks.

This charmingly animated ad-free app also supplies your children with fun activities in art, music, and math, plus more than 200 lessons in history and science. Your kids can draw pictures, sing along with songs, and record their own voices.

Subscription-based pricing of the app for iOS is $7.99 per month. As with ABCmouse, you can test the waters with a one-month free trial.