For those parents and teachers looking for apps for middle-schoolers, check out the five apps below that feature everything from Mayan numbers to cracking secret codes.
1. MayaNumbers. Free
In addition to a brief historical explanation of how the Mayan people performed math calculations, this app offers up a simple game that will have players using tap, swipe, and tap-and-hold gestures to add dots, dashes, and shells to represent 1, 5, and 0 (zero), the three numbers used by Mayans for addition (and a form of multiplication). It's tricky, too -- the Mayans used a base-20 system for counting as opposed to the standard base-10 we use today, so players will need to change the way they think just a bit and "forget" the 1s, 10s, and 100s places used in today's math and replace it with 1s, 20s, and 400s. The colors and graphics for MayaNumbers are eye-catching -- not surprising considering that Dig-It! Games was founded by Suzi Wilczynski, a professional archaeologist and former middle-school teacher.
2. Operation Math Code Squad. $2.99
Although this app is recommended for ages 6-12, it's still a solid math testing app even for older kids. Up to four players can play at once, each taking the role of a secret agent hoping to foil Dr. Odd plan to rid the world of math. Timed exercises allow the team to choose addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, or a mix -- an Easy, Medium and Difficult mission level can also be selected. As players finish a stage, the following stage increases the difficulty. Players must complete an increasing number of math questions before the timer runs out. Teachers will really like the game summary screen that shows each player's results. The graphics and sounds are going to appeal to all ages of kids, and the fast-paced play and cooperation between players offers teachers and parents a game app that will be requested often.
3. DragonBox Algebra, $5.99 and $9.99
DragonBox Algebra 5+ and the more advanced version DragonBox Algebra 12+ are both bright and eye-catching games in which, as players progress through the game, images of things like bugs and treasure chests begin to get replaced with variables and equations over time, until eventually players are balancing equations. If players are familiar with Angry Birds, they will understand how the game progresses in terms of Chapters and Levels -- more complex games cannot be played without successfully solving earlier levels (and thus learning basic concepts). The 5+ version is for those student just getting into Algebra (or in a Pre-Algebra class) and the 12+ version is for middle grade students and offers many more variations of algebra (such as using parenthesis in equations or factors, for example).
4. Middle School Math Pro. $0.99
There are three levels of this game: 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Players collect bananas for answering questions correctly and levels increase in complexity as the game progresses. Players also receive badges (bananas) to indicate their mastery of a subject -- three bananas in all per topic. The 8th grade app, for example, offers ten topics -- Words to Equations, Evaluating Expressions, 2-Step Equations, and Exponential Function are just a few examples. Each level (6th, 7th, 8th) of the app has an impressive list of flash-card like questions that cover an equally impressive list of subjects. Available on both Android and Apple devices.
5. Buzz Math. Free for students, premium version for teachers
This free iPad app offers thousands of Common Core-aligned math problems that cover 6th, 7th, and 8th grade curriculum. Students can play with the app for free, and teachers can use it with an entire class. The app tracks students' mastery of problems and offers a reporting tool for teachers. The app is also enabled for SmartBoards. The Premium version for educators costs $100/class. School and district subscription pricing is also available.
For many more educational apps, check out MindShift's collection of reviews.