5 Best Apps for Math and Counting

Best Math Apps for Pre-K & K

As a follow up to my post about writing apps (which you can click here to see) I thought I’d share some of the math and counting apps we’ve discovered. Again, it’s been challenging to find the few jewels among the plain old rocks. I really hadn’t realized how many apps were out there, nor how terrible some of them could be! The ones I list below (in no particular order) are the ones that I like because of their educational value, and that kids like for their entertainment value. Each of these apps (except for Count Sort Match) offers a free “lite” version and a full price version. Click on the title or the picture to see the app in the app store.

Count Sort Match

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This app showed up on Free App Friday last week. It’s been a big hit with my class. They find it very engaging. I like that in the “count” area of the game, they ask children to count¬†objects and then teach the numeral (1) as well as the written number (one). (Small pet peeve: I think the way they ask children to write the lower case ‘e’ is off, but since this is a math app, I won’t hold it against them. ūüėČ ) My students don’t find the “Sort” game particularly compelling, but they do like the “Match” game. It offers an opportunity for them to match a collection of items to the numeral represented. Great for reinforcing accurate counting.

Hungry Fish

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This app is particularly popular with the boys. A fish comes into the coral reef “hungry” for¬†a particular number. It’s the job of the player to feed that number to the fish. This in itself is plenty of challenge (and entertainment) for some of my students. They love watching the fish grow as he eats each number. What takes the app up a notch is the fact that you can combine two numbers to get the target number and then feed that number to the fish. That concept is a little above some of my students, but they still love the app.

Math is Fun Ages 4-5

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I review this app here, and it’s still a favorite among my students. As I was trying to encourage them to try out some of the new math apps I’d downloaded, they still kept gravitating back to this one. There are a variety of activities which teach a variety of skills. My students enjoy all of the activities.

Butterfly Math

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The kids drag a target number of butterflies into a bamboo cage. They check their work and adjust it if need be. I like that this app allows children to make mistakes, and then fix¬†them. A lot of the counting apps I’ve downloaded only offer the correct number of items to be counted. Often I’ve watched children simply touch all the elements to be counted but not actually count them.

Park Math

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It took me awhile to discover the depth of this app. Actually, it took one of my students to show me where all the “good stuff” was. I love how their young brains often see so much more than mine does. There are seven different activities for the child to explore. Those activities focus on counting, sorting, patterning, addition and subtraction. The counting activities were a little too simplistic for my children, but they enjoyed most of the rest of them.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite math apps for the Pre-K crowd are! If¬†you’d like to read about my five favorite writing apps for Pre-K and Kindergarten click the¬†picture below to see that list.

best writing apps

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QR Codes for Counting

Counting with QR Codes
I linked up to Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies. Scroll to the bottom of the post to download your own set of QR code activity sheets.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Ever since I discovered how teachers in upper elementary grades were using QR codes in their lessons, I was desperate to find a way to make it work in our classroom. ¬†I think QR codes are just so much fun! I mean really, what kid doesn’t like to scan things? I still get excited when I go through the self check line in the grocery store and get to scan my own groceries. ¬†In case you’re not sure what a QR code (quick response code) ¬†is, here’s a picture:

qrcodefixed blog.11869627

You can scan that image with a barcode scanner and the image will give you information. Sometimes it will give you text, sometimes it will link to a website. There are a number of other ways that a QR code can connect you to the internet, but I haven’t figure out all of those ways yet. The QR code above links to text. You can scan it to find out what it says. ūüôā ¬†All you need to read a QR code is a smartphone. There are a number of free apps that you can download that will allow your smartphone camera to scan a QR code, and also “old fashioned” bar codes. ¬†Search “barcode scanner” or “QR scanner” in your app store to find one. The one that I liked for our ipads was this one. ¬†It was really simple to use and seemed to be pretty reliable.

There are also websites that will allow you to *create* your own QR codes. ¬†That’s when I think things start to get really fun.¬†Here’s a link¬†to the website I used to create the QR codes for this activity.¬†Many teachers have been creating activities where students complete a task and then scan a QR code to check their work. ¬†I knew my preschoolers would love an activity like this but I struggled to find one that didn’t require any reading, adding, or complex math skills. (My students aren’t able to do any of those things.) ¬†Finally I thought of a way to make an activity that would use QR codes and be appropriate for their level.¬†

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ve been working on learning the teen numbers in our class. It takes us pretty much all of the Spring semester to master this, so we’re always on the lookout for ways to spice things up. ¬†I decided that I could making a counting activity that allows the children to check their counting by scanning a QR code. ¬†Here’s an example:

QR code 15

The child must count the kitty cats. Then they write their answer in the space that says “How many?” ¬†Then they scan the QR code to see if their answer matches the one that comes up after scanning.¬†If you scan the code above, it will tell you how many kitties there are.¬†I made cards for numbers 11-20. ¬†You’re welcome to download them for your own use. They are shared here using Google drive.¬†

One of the tricky aspects of this plan was figuring out which tools the students would use to scan the QR codes. We knew that we could put a scanner app on the ipads, but we were worried that the size of the ipad might make it a bit¬†unwieldy. Turning over our cellphones to preschoolers wasn’t our first choice. ¬†Finally we also had our underutilized ipod. We decided to start out with ipads and the ipod, but be prepared to switch to our phones if the ipads just weren’t working. In the end, there really wasn’t much difference between using the ipads and the ipod. ¬†It was easy to scan with either device, once they got the hang of it. If anything, scanning with the ipads was easier.

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What did turn out to be challenging was the multi-step process that this activity required.  When you break the activity apart, it really is a lot for a preschooler to handle.

  1. First they had to count the items correctly.
  2. Then they had to figure out which written number matched the spoken number they had used when they counted. (They used the number line to help with this. Boy Mama Teacher Mama is offering a free number line on her website¬†if you’re looking for one.)
  3. Then they had to write the number correctly.
  4. Finally they had to scan the number to check their answer. 

Most of our kids could do it, but a few struggled, particularly the ones that are still forgetting 11 & 12. They would get bogged down on step 1. Our HeidiSongs helped with step 2. For example if the child counted “sixteen” but couldn’t remember what a “sixteen” looked like, we’d just start singing. ūüôā “A one and six is a sixteen…” ¬†There were also a few kids getting bogged down on step 3. We realized that we need to review number formation with a some of our kids. Happily, scanning proved to be the least challenging of all the steps, so hopefully they saw it as a reward. We’re thinking we may go another round with QR codes to see if the multi-step process gets easier with practice!

Click on the picture below to download your own set of QR Code activity sheets:

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Update: I’ve made another set of QR code activity sheets. ¬†Click the image below to see them and download your own set.

QR Codes for counting

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Using Google Reader to Keep Up With the Blogs You Want to Read

 

Using Google Reader to Keep Up with the Blogs You Want to Read

Books

Update: Google recently announced they they would be discontinuing Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. As a result, I no longer recommend it as a blog reader. Click here to read my newest post about alternatives to Google Reader.

I’ve been reading blogs on a regular basis for several years now. ¬†Initially, I would visit each blogger’s page periodically to see if they’d written anything new. This was time consuming, and not necessarily helpful because many of the bloggers I read would go weeks between posts. At some point along the way, someone suggested that I use Google Reader and that changed everything.

I use Google Reader to subscribe to any blog that interests me. Then, when the blogger posts something new, ¬†the new post shows up in my Reader right away, and then stays there until I can get to it. I don’t have to keep checking in every few days because I know that everything will be in my reader when I’m ready for it. ¬†I now follow over one hundred blogs on a plethora of topics. I have all of my blogs organized by category: Deocrating, Teaching, Cooking, etc. ¬†When I have a free minute, I can sit down and browse the most current posts in whatever topic I’m interested in at the moment.¬†This is particularly useful with my teaching blogs. ¬†There is simply no way that I could keep up with all of the blogs that I follow if I didn’t have their posts all in one place.

If you’re lucky, the blog you want to subscribe to will have an RSS reader icon that looks like this.

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If you can find that icon, you click on it and then it will ask you which reader you want to subscribe with. You simply click “Subscribe with Google Reader” and you’re done!¬†Unfortunately¬† not all the blogs I like to follow have an RSS button. So I’ve learned to put them directly into my reader. ¬†Here’s how you do it:

Google Reader is pretty straight forward, particularly if you already have a Google account. The first thing you need to do is sign into your Google account. When you’re signed in, you should have a toolbar across the top of your screen that looks like this:

google tool bar

If you click on “more” there will be a drop down menu, and one of the choices will be “Reader.”

Once you’re on the reader screen, you need to look for the “Subscribe” button. It’s orange and on the upper left.

When you click on subscribe, you’ll see a box like the one below.

subscribe button

Next open another tab on your browser and find a blog that you want to follow. For this example, we’ll follow Technology in Early Childhood. Copy the URL of that blog. ¬†For Technology in Early Childhood the URL is

technologyinearlychildhood.wordpress.com

The URL is the “address” for the blog that’s at the top of your browser. ¬†In Google Chrome (the browser I use) the URL is circled in the picture below.

url location-001

Next, click back to the tab where you have Google Reader open, and paste the URL into that box under the subscribe button.

Click “add” and you have now subscribed to your first blog!

Once you’ve got a few blogs you’re reading, you may want to add some categories. Here’s how you do it.

*All of the blogs that you subscribe to will be listed on the left hand side of your page.

*Hover over the title of any blog that you want put in a category.

*Click on the inverted triangle that appears on the right hand side of the blog title

*Choose “New Folder” from the menu.

*Enter the title for your first category and the blog you highlighted will automatically be added to that folder.

*Repeat the process with any blogs you want to add to that ¬†folder, except choose the folder you made, instead of “new folder.”

A full Reader is a good friend to any bibliophile; you can always have something ¬†to read on hand. You just log into google, click on “reader” under the more button, and go to town.

Looking for some blogs to add to your reader? Here are a few of my favorites. Click on the name of the blog to visit it.

Teaching:

Boy Mama Teacher Mama  Full of great teaching ideas, and mommy ideas

Teach Preschool  Lots of hands on, engaging preschool lessons

Home:

The Pioneer Woman  Amazing recipes, humor and tales of life on a ranch

Young House Love  House Decorating ideas

Cooking:

Bakerella  The inventor of cake pops! Lots of yummy treats

VegGirl RD She makes vegetarian eating look so yummy

Of course there are countless other ways to follow blogs. Most blogs have a place where you can enter your email address to receive an email when the blog is updated. ¬†That honestly isn’t my favorite method because my email box is pretty cluttered already, and I miss my favorite blog posts that way. ¬†But it does work for someone who isn’t going to read a ton of blogs. ¬†I suspect to that as a blogger, rather than a blog reader, I will soon discover other ways to keep up with my favorite blogs. ¬†I’ve tried to follow a couple of you that are following me through WordPress with only mixed success. Let me know if you’ve got any tips for me on that! Otherwise, happy reading!

Using Pinterest as an Educator

How to Use Pinterest as an Educator
What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is the social networking site that has swept the nation, quickly rising in rank to stand alongside long time players Twitter and Facebook. People, particularly women, are drawn to the very visual interface.

How does Pinterest work?

Pinterest is a collection of ideas. It can be used to store and organize your own ideas, or it can be used to find new ideas. The ideas are represented initially in picture form, but the pictures often link to information on a website about how to implement the idea. A Pinterest user will have a collection of bulletin boards that are organized by category. The user can then “pin” any ideas they encounter on the internet to a board of their choice. Users can also browse other users’ boards and re-pin any pins that they find interesting. Pinterest is similar to Twitter in that one user is “followed” by another user. A follower sees anything that the user “pins.” A follower can then “re-pin” anything they see that strikes their fancy.

What do you do with Pinterest?

I have a personal Pinterest account where I follow any of my Facebook friends that have Pinterest accounts. Most of my friends pin things like recipes, craft ideas, decorating ideas, and fashion ideas. We pin & re-pin one another’s ideas. If I want to branch out, I can click on “Everything” at the top of the Pinterest page and see things that other people besides my friends are pinning. I’ve tried countless recipes, and more than a few decorating ideas that I first discovered on Pinterest.

How do you use Pinterest as an Educator?

I also have a professional Pinterest account. This is where I pin all of my teaching ideas. All of my “boards” are like file folders you might have in your drawers. I have one board for every subject and theme we teach in our class.

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When I find something that fits a category, I “pin it” to a board. I made a special effort on my teaching account to only follow other teachers. In fact, I know very few of the people I follow on this account in real life. Often, I simply stumbled across their posts when I was browsing Pinterest using the “Everything” button and liked what I saw. I then visited their Pinterest page so that I could “follow” their boards about teaching. The other way I’ve found people to follow on my teaching Pinterest board is by reading teaching blogs. I follow close to 30 teaching blogs on my “Reader.” (More on how to use a blog reader in another post.) I follow many of the bloggers from my Blog Reader on Pinterest. Following all of these other early childhood educators ensures that whenever I open my professional Pinterest account I will see lots of posts relevant to my field and that there will be lots of things I want to pin.

In addition to simply browsing Pinterest for ideas, my teaching partner and I also use the “search” function a great deal. For example, when we were studying “spiders” in the fall and needed spider related activities, we simply entered “spiders” or perhaps more specifically “spider activities” in the search bar and pinned anything that looked interesting. As a result, we now have 23 spider craft ideas on our “Spiders” board. We’ll be able to refer to our spider board next October when our spider unit comes around again and we want to change things up a bit.

The third way I use Pinterest is when I’m browsing the internet, or reading teaching blogs. Pinterest has a “Pin It” button that you can add to your computer.¬†When you find something on the internet that you would like to add to one of your pinterest boards, you can click the “pin it” button and choose a picture to represent your pin. Then you’ll be able to find that same idea on the internet again just by looking on your Pinterest board. I interact with Pinterest in this way least often. In fact, I know there are many Pinterest users who never pin anything from the internet. They simply repin things that are already on Pinterest.

Implications

In all honesty, I’m surprised by how much Pinterest has revolutionized our teaching and planning. Finding new teaching and learning activities that are relevant to our themes and age group has never been simpler. Current ideas and best practices are flowing into our Pinterest feed and we’re discovering things we might have overlooked before. Have you discovered Pinterest yet? Are you using it for your teaching?