By Andy Larmand
President Obama recently made news when he allocated $4 billion to be put towards advancing STEM education in America: 4 billion dollars. As the world spins towards becoming almost entirely centered on technology, those in the education field are starting to take notice.
Perhaps what’s more important to understand is that hands-on STEM education is not just for middle school and high school-aged kids. Today’s students are going to be expected to know how to do things not required by generations before them—they need to do things in school that generations before them simply did not do.
We’re not just talking about high school students being introduced to a couple of computer science classes in their junior or senior years anymore. Now, STEM learning must begin in early elementary school and possibly even kindergarten. Why?
Before the turn of the century, only 42 percent of U.S. adults said that they used a computer at their home or regularly at their job, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2014, that number was up to 81 percent.
STEM jobs that require the worker to not only be familiar with, but also an expert at specific skills, like coding, are the future. Currently, 15 of the 20 fastest-growing careers require a background in either math or science and, in many cases, both.
The number of STEM jobs is also expected to increase to encompass 33 percent of all occupations by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It only makes sense that learning practices should adjust accordingly.
When it comes to engaging five or six-year-olds in STEM activities, we’re not talking about having them write some complex code. There are age-appropriate ways to expand their skills, which are often in the form of educational apps.
These apps aren’t just games—they’re tools for learning important skills. “In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill—it’s a basic skill, right along with the three R’s,” President Obama said.
Here are 10 STEM apps, in no particular order, all of which will help create an interactive classroom, lay the foundation for building STEM skills, and develop important skills in young children.
1. Basket Fall
Basket Fall engages students with fun activities that are exceeded only by the simplicity the app offers as it challenges students and helps them hone physics concepts, such as predicting angles, arcs and the effects of gravity. As players progress, the need for precision and attention to detail increases, teaching the importance of making well-informed predictions. Basket Fall is a great way to get young students to apply physics-based thinking in the classroom
2. Isaac Newton’s Gravity Game
This app might as well have “STEM” written in the title. Isaac Newton’s Gravity Game helps kids view learning as a fun quest rather than a tedious requirement. In fact, most of the time, they forget that they’re even learning as the progressively more difficult science puzzles engage them on entirely new levels.
Even young learners are able to creatively obtain and then immediately apply their new knowledge of physics thanks to an introduction to levers, ramps, pulleys and more.
3. Oh No Fractions!
Many students struggle with math and have little interest in honing these skills. That could all change thanks to Oh No Fractions, an app that helps students learning about partial numbers. The app provides students with a clear visual representation of the problem and tracks their progress to make sure they’re gaining the STEM skills they need.
The large interface makes it easier for kids to explore math in a 1:1 classroom while they perfect their skills and get comfortable with fraction operations.
If you want to add the ‘A’ to your STEM selection (which stands for Art in STEAM), Jamstik combined with the JamTutor app is the perfect 21st century way to bring real music into the classroom while students simultaneously learn tech skills.
The Jamstik features real strings and frets and pairs with Bluetooth to display interactive guitar lessons on the screen of an iPad. Anyone from beginners to pros can learn to play by taking advantage of intuitive on-screen instructions for hand placement and learning different key.
5. Endless Numbers
Use Endless Numbers to develop early numeracy in your younger learners. While using the app, kids aged 4 and up will interactively learn number recognition, sequences, quantities, patterns and more. It can be used during group instruction, in a 1-on-1 setting and at home.
The app features numbers that come alive and excite kids about a future filled with complex problems, while laying the groundwork for the skills needed to solve the real, head-scratching equations! There’s a free version available in the app store, and the School Edition is also available for $14.99.
Learning to code has never been easier or more engaging than with the Hopscotch app. Kids can write code to create their own games, which they can instantly publish and share with the world.
The easy-to-follow tutorials guide them just enough to let them quickly become their own teacher. Kids can mimic popular mobile games or get creative and invent the next addicting game or can’t-live-without app. Students will love how empowered they are and teachers will have the satisfaction of using a true future-building tool.
Earlier, we talked about adding the ‘A’ to STEM, but it may be just as beneficial to add an ‘R’ too. I’m talking about robotics and there’s no better way for kids to get into this booming field than with the powerful Ozobot app.
Ozobot intuitively teaches kids key STEM concepts like color-coding and cause and effect, while providing them with engaging challenges. For example, students can use prepared “maps” for the Ozobot to navigate or take the learning to a new level, by creatively mapping their own routes for it to follow. In the process, they stay engaged as the Ozobot communicates code back to them.
This teacher-recommended app features numerous games and activities for young learners and is a great introduction to STEM in the classroom.
8. DragonBox Algebra 12+
As your younger students get older, progression is the name of the game. DragonBox offers a tech-centered approach to deepening the foundational STEM skills students have already established.
Mastering tricky equations can be tough, especially when equations begin to include more letters than numbers. DragonBox helps students build confidence in solving these problems.
This app is designed specifically for junior high school students, helping them grasp key mathematical concepts like parentheses, factorization, substitution and like-terms, while tracking their progress. They’re able to use this tracking to discover what they’re doing well and where they might need improvement.
DragonBox focuses on discovery and experimentation, making it a go-to choice for in-class STEM learning.
9. Molecules by Theodore Gray
Molecules is another good app for high school students who are emerged in the study of chemistry. The app provides easy-to-follow breakdowns of chemicals, molecules and compounds.
What sets it apart is its touch-interactive molecular dynamics simulation that lets students get hands-on with hundreds of different molecules. After only a few minutes of playing around with this app, students will acquire a deeper understanding of the science behind bonds while they take a break from the textbooks and get serious about science.
10. LightUp Learning
The LightUp Edison Kit paired with the LightUp Learning app is a fun way to introduce young students to the basics of circuitry, engineering and electricity. The app is a brilliant supplement to hands-on learning with the LightUp Edison Kit and perfect for late elementary students.
While tinkering with the kit’s components, students can use the app to take pictures and even ask the app for help. It also gives kids an “X-ray vision” look into the circuit so they can literally see the electricity flow.
Finally, the app provides an introduction to coding and encourages students to drag and drop code blocks right onto their iPad screen to make a bunch of cool projects.
For more news and innovative app suggestions, check out Eduporium’s Appsolutely section, where they review and suggest some of the best educational apps for learners of all ages or follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook!