When Meredith Miller had to bone up to take the SAT recently, the Sayre School senior hit her schoolbooks and reached for her cellphone.
Miller, 17, of Lexington, Ky., had downloaded an “app,” or application, onto her iPhone, which allowed her to review SAT test questions essentially at the touch of a button. She had two SAT apps—one for math and one for reading—but mainly used the math version.
“I had a test-prep book that I used, but I kind of wanted to try something to supplement that,” she explains. “So I decided to see what the phone app was like.
“I thought it was helpful because wherever I was, if I had time, I could pull up the app on my phone and use it to study. I liked it.”
This kind of electronic test preparation is becoming more and more common across the country.
While most students still rely on the printed word to study, many now don’t hesitate to use an iPhone, an iPad, or other mobile device to practice for big standardized tests or simply to review regular classroom work in order to keep fresh.
Many test-prep applications are available for cellphones—some for free, others for a fee—and more are coming. Educators also are starting to embrace them.
Natalee Feese, the math coordinator for the Fayette County public schools in Kentucky, is a big believer in using cellphone apps to keep math skills sharp. Feese keeps her iPhone loaded with apps, from simple numbers games to serious math programs, and she encourages her two young sons to use them.
“I have so many apps that I have them cataloged on my phone,” Feese says. “When we’re at the doctor’s office or waiting to be seated at a restaurant, my kids always want to get on my phone and play math games. When you have the applications on your phone, they provide great impromptu learning opportunities.”
Feese’s apps range from “Lemonade Stand,” which is designed for young children, to “Wolfram/Alpha,” which is aimed at more sophisticated math fans.
“You can type in any math problem, from simplifying a fraction to doing an equation, and, in seconds, this app will give you the answer and how to solve the problem,” she says. “Apps are starting to be everywhere.”
While there is some concern that students’ almost constant use of computers, social-networking, and mobile devices is reducing their ability to concentrate for extended periods of time, use of electronic devices isn’t slowing.
A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as Students, Teachers Turn on Math Apps