10 Best Apps for Students

My approach to tech and teenagers is a twist on the old standby, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." In other words, I load the smartphones and tablets they refuse to unhand with apps meant to make them smarter. Here are some A+ suggestions.

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Motion Math: Pizza!


Running a successful pizzeria requires shopping for ingredients, running the cash register and turning a profit. This entertaining game challenges players to tackle faster and harder multiplication problems as the levels increase.

iOS; $3.99

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Microsoft Office Mobile


With some of the best work tools around—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—at her fingertips, your lightning-fast texter can probably write English papers and science reports right on her phone.

iOS, Android, Windows Phone; Free, Office 365 home subscription required to create and edit documents on the iPad

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Hopefully, the means to create a digital assignment log and receive reminders as tasks come due heralds the end of forgotten homework. If the teacher is willing to use the companion app, so much the better—he can publish directly to the students' planners.

iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Web; Free

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This app offers millions of subject-specific flash cards created by teachers and users—plus the ability to easily create unique ones to flip through onscreen. Bottom line: less time messing with markers and index cards, more time actually studying.

iOS, Android, Kindle, Web; Free or from $9 per month

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Grammar Wonderland


Flying a plane toward proper nouns or feeding a friendly polar bear the correct parts of speech to rack up points makes for an entertaining alternative to the old-school (not to mention yawn-inducing) practice of diagramming sentences.

iOS, Android; Free or $2.99

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Mindsnacks U.S. Geography


Featuring a virtual road trip through the U.S. that will earn players the nickname "Human Atlas," this app covers the geography as well as cultural aspects of all 50 states in a visually fun way. It can be customized for beginning, intermediate and advanced skill sets.

IOS; $1.99

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In this day and age, every student should learn to code. Schools seem to only just be figuring this out, so don't wait for them catch up. This app will get your student started coding in just about an hour. Also, it's fun! (Adults should take advantage too.)

iOS, Web; Free

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Khan Academy


The visionary Salman Khan is using technology to transform the way people learn everything from simple math to quantum physics. If you install only one app on your kid's iPad, make it this one.

iOS; Free

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Solar Walk


A 3-D model of the solar system with stunning graphics? Yes, please! With a presentation this engaging, boning up on planets and continents becomes an irresistible journey of inquiry.

iOS; Free or $2.99; Android; Free or $2.90

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Encyclopedia Britannica


Sure, Wikipedia's crowd-sourced content is often the go-to, but there's still something to be said for an authoritative source. Flipping through an encyclopedia, gleaning random facts and looking at cool pictures used to require a weighty, sometimes dusty book. Not anymore, provided there's an iPad handy.

iOS, Windows Phone; Some content is free, full access is $15/year

Originally published in the September 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.