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    Apps combine math and fun for young learners

    My children adore tablets and they’re now so ­accustomed to touchscreens that their fingerprints can be seen on my TV set when they forget it doesn’t work that way. But my wife and I are careful about the apps they can use.

    Although we’ve installed a few that are purely games, there are many inspiring educational apps that are just as much fun. Their numeracy skills have definitely been helped by the counting and math apps.

    Toddler Counting 123

    $1 on iOS

    Basic counting apps are one way to interest the children in numbers and math. Toddler Counting 123 is a good one for adults to use alongside very young children.


    The app is simple and well executed with straightforward menus and good graphics.

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    Its voice asks children how many squares, saxophones, and so on they can see on the screen.

    When the child taps each item, its count is read aloud, and they even get a congratulatory message when they’ve tapped them all.

    It’s cute, and there’s the option to switch to a language like Spanish or French for extra fun. But the app counts only to 20, which is a bit of a shame.

    Kids Numbers and Math

    $1 on iOS and $3 on Android

    Kids Numbers and Math is for slightly older children because, after counting and numbers, the next numeracy challenge is basic arithmetic. This app teaches basic numbers as well as topics like addition, subtraction, maximums and minimums. It’s simple to use with big areas on the screen for little fingers to tap along and clear menu items so adults can control the app and adjust its difficulty settings.


    One of the more challenging puzzles is to tap on the biggest number of the three shown on floating balloon graphics. The app has well-drawn cartoon images and clear audio along with amusing extras to keep young minds interested.

    Shaking your device will cause different things to happen inside each part of the app, such as making apples fall from a tree.

    The app also has advanced puzzles, which include numbers above 100, for an extra challenge.

    Operation Math

    $3 on iOS for iPad

    A gamelike app is Operation Math. It has a secret-agent theme: A James Bond-like cartoon character has to type in answers on a smart wristwatch to crack enemy codes. The app has a basic story line about beating the evil ‘‘Dr. Odd,’’ and there are lots of missions of varying difficulty in terms of the number of puzzles to solve in a given time.

    The simpler missions, for example, have only a few code doors to break through and involve only simple addition or subtraction puzzles. The more complex missions require fast mental arithmetic and can include multiplication and division functions.


    A player who solves enough missions is rewarded with new outfits for the secret agent and different watch designs. This app is definitely fun, though it’s a shame that the only secret agent character is male.

    Thanks to its game features, adults may find Operation Math a great way to brush up on their own skills — it’s just complex enough to make it fun.

    Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times. Hiawatha Bray is not writing this week.