I’ve been engaged in math app negotiations for our iPad with my 8-year-old Bipolar/ADD/LHON/Pediatric Migraines with Aura daughter over the entire school year thus far. I’ve observed her in virtual online classes. She grasps math concepts well, but is weak on memorized math facts. This may beg the question — why not just sit her down with flashcards at night? I tried that. And many more suggestions. Aurora is a complicated child. She works weekly with an Intervention Specialist on third grade math. In addition, she was mistakenly placed in a fourth grade online math class where, to everyone’s surprise, she has flourished from the attention and phenomenal teaching of Mrs. Byers (OHVA). Apple sold three million iPads the first 72 hours of their release for a reason — they are unique and interacting teaching tools that reach children, both gifted and disabled, in ways no other teaching method can.
My rookie app purchase mistakes when I bought the first three (or four) apps were that I identified the problem (needs to learn math facts) and my desires in an app only (price, quality, emails weekly report, good reviews, etc.). Recently, my Facebook page for this column gave away free codes for a variety of apps donated by several developers, enabling me to see the wide array of choices available. I came to the conclusion, with rare exception, there is no such thing as a bad app. You can, however, as a parent with purchasing power, make poor choices by focusing too much on your wants and not enough on your child.
My negotiations have come to a successful victory for both sides. How? I sat down with my daughter and shopped the 700,000+ App Store products with her. Our happy, final choice was Rainbow Math by Abitalk (www.abitalk.com). When my daughter finally found an app she was happy with, and I looked at it through her eyes, my previous mistakes seem obvious. The color scheme is especially vivid and the numbers look larger than what is used in the apps I chose. Color perception and text size are issues we have battled due to her LHON. The app features calming raindrops, blooming flowers and a few notes of music. Aurora battles depression, anxiety and sensory issues and finds these aspects of the app very calming. Previous apps I had chosen featured themes which didn’t interest her, text she struggled to see or loud music that annoyed her.
Another clue? Look for developers your child consistently connects with as their ‘style and flair’ often carries through their line of products. Once I downloaded Aurora’s math app choice, I noted we already had Abitalk’s Third Grade Social Studies and Third Grade Science apps, which my daughter loved and for which she begged for more. A good developer will post an email address in their product, encourage feedback and honestly care about the children for whom they write apps. Look in the App Store for “lite” versions of apps, which are normally free apps with a limit on their features for the consumer to try out before committing to purchasing. Is there such a thing as a perfect app? Probably not. But if you find a reasonably priced app that engages your child and accomplishes your goal — that’s a victory!
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