The Best Educational Apps for the iPad

Great iPad Apps for Classroom Learning

Father showing digital tablet to son while studying at table

 Maskot/Getty Images

The iPad is increasingly being used for education, whether by parents hoping to jumpstart their kid's education with apps aimed at pre-Ks or schools rolling out iPads in the classroom. This list of apps contain some great choices for early learning, with apps focused on learning letters, reading and math. Most of these educational apps are free, though some include in-app purchases to unlock additional lessons.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy

What We Like

  • Courses are detailed.

  • Qualified instructors.

  • Affordable.

What We Don't Like

  • Instructors sometimes assume existing knowledge.

  • Lacks expanded content.

The most comprehensive educational app available for the iPad, Khan Academy covers K-12 subjects that include math, biology, chemistry, finance, and history. The iPad app includes more than 4,200 videos designed for kids just starting their path to learning all the way up to preparing for the SAT. Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization focused on providing free education. While not as entertaining as some of the other apps on this list, it is the only one that compiles all subjects and all learning levels into a single free app.

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

What We Like

  • Free content available.

  • New videos each week.

  • Well-organized content.

What We Don't Like

  • Paid subscription for all content.

  • Learn almost exclusively through video.

  • Passive learning.

Focused on a variety of subjects for children in Kindergarten through the third grade, BrainPOP Jr's Movie of the Week provides an entertaining look at reading, writing, math, social studies, and other subjects. The free movie also includes bonus materials such as quizzes and other activities. The app also offers two subscriptions: Explorer, which includes three related videos (and their bonus material) in addition to the movie of the week, and Full Access, which allow unlimited access to all content.

Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games

Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games

What We Like

  • Covers important preschool and kindergarten concepts.

  • Engaging for very young kids.

  • Parental monitoring features.

What We Don't Like

  • Limited activities for each age group.

  • Requires a subscription to access all content.

  • Games can feel repetitive.

Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games is the first in a series of educational apps offered by Kevin Bradford. These basic apps can be great learning tools for basic alphabet, numbers, language, and math skills. Each app comes with a few free games to let you try it out, with the remaining games available through an in-app purchase. One nice feature in the games is the slide-to-close mechanic for exiting a game. This gesture is great for toddlers and small children who otherwise might accidentally exit from the activity.

Geoboard

Geoboard

What We Like

  • Includes very useful tools.

  • Great replacement for a physical board.

  • Collaboration is possible.

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks lesson plans and instructions.

  • Intended for supervised use.

The Geoboard allows for the drawing of different shapes from a triangle to a square to various other polygons. This approach allows for visual learning to help conquer subjects like perimeter, area, angles, etc. The Geoboard features pins that let students create the various shapes, with the iPad version including the standard 25-pegboard and an expanded 150-pegboard.

Virtual Manipulatives

Virtual Manipulatives

What We Like

  • Free to use.

  • Very age appropriate.

  • Uses a trial and error approach.

What We Don't Like

  • Outdated graphics.

  • Lacks instructional support.

Virtual manipulatives are intended as a teaching aid rather than a mini-game or complete lesson on the iPad. The app is great for elementary math teachers looking for a visual way to help teach the concept of fractions, including turning fractions into percentages and decimals. This app is not intended as a learn-on-your-own environment.

Math Bingo

Math Bingo

What We Like

  • Good way for kids to practice math.

  • Offers multiple difficulty levels.

  • Includes a local leaderboard.

What We Don't Like

  • No instruction or feedback.

  • Some non-math challenges.

  • Can get tedious to play.

While ABCya's Virtual Manipulatives needs a teacher, Math Bingo turns basic math into a fun game. Rather than wait for letters and numbers to be called out in the right combinations to grant a square, Math Bingo challenges kids to solve a math problem. The app includes games based on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or an all-inclusive game.

ABC Magic Phonics

ABC Magic Phonics

What We Like

  • Simple and easy to learn.

  • Free to use.

  • Good reading primer.

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't fully teach reading.

  • Not for learning letters.

This simple app is an audio-visual set of flashcards that teach basic phonetics by going through the alphabet and sounding out the first letter of words. Kids can go through the flashcards in sequential order by swiping a finger across the screen or hit the random button at the bottom for a random card. This app is a good start along the path of acquiring reading skills.

Elmo Loves ABCs

Elmo Loves ABCs

What We Like

  • Good variety of activities.

  • Teaches letters and sounds.

  • No internet access required.

What We Don't Like

  • Requires more resources than most games for kids.

  • A few bugs throughout the game.

One of the most expensive apps on this list, Elmo Loves ABCs might be better for parents wanting to kick-start their toddler's ability to learn the alphabet rather than a classroom setting. Kids love Elmo, and in Elmo Loves ABCs, their favorite Sesame Street character will introduce them to the letters in the alphabet.

Learn With Homer

Learn With Homer

What We Like

  • Personalized learning.

  • Helps with learning to read.

  • Includes music, stories, poems, and more.

What We Don't Like

  • In-app purchases.

  • Unlimited access is expensive.

  • A few non-educational games included.

Learn with Homer features a variety of different interactive lessons, including a phonetic-based learn-to-read activity that kids can follow along to learn the different sounds and lessons about nature and the world. The app offers a signup and works best with Wi-Fi turned on to download new lessons. It recently added new lessons available as in-app purchases.