Identifying quality educational apps: Lessons from ‘top’ mathematics apps in the Apple App store

Abstract

There are 80,000+ educational apps in the Apple App Store and math apps are the most common. We searched for ‘math’ in the education category and selected the top 10 apps for each of the 3 filters provided by Apple (Relevance, Popularity, Rating) and 3 age categories (0–5, 6–8, 9–11). Using these top 90 apps, we examined the basic information (e.g., price), educational content, and user ratings to see whether the information provided in app stores helps parents and educators find quality educational apps. There was a surprising lack of transparency and meaningful information. The Apple App store needs to explain how it selects ‘top’ apps and developers need to provide benchmarks of educational quality in their app descriptions.

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Notes

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    For each math app, every app image provided in the app store was downloaded and used to calculate the average pixels per byte for that app. This was done by a) dividing the total number of pixels in each app image (e.g., 1020 X 1980 image = 2019.600 pixels) by its file size (bytes) and b) determining the average pixels per byte across each app’s set of images. The logic of the pixels per byte measure is that computer image compression produces larger sized images when there are more differences between pixels. If pixels are similar then an image is less complex (e.g., a solid blue picture has no differences between pixels) and it requires fewer bytes to encode that information. Thus the pixels per byte of data is inversely related to complexity such that the fewer number of pixels generated per byte the more complex the image.

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Source data used for this study can be found on the authors’ website.

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funding for this work was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (430–2017-00230).

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Correspondence to Adam Kenneth Dubé.

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Dubé, A.K., Kacmaz, G., Wen, R. et al. Identifying quality educational apps: Lessons from ‘top’ mathematics apps in the Apple App store. Educ Inf Technol 25, 5389–5404 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-020-10234-z

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Keywords

  • Tablet computers
  • App store
  • Educational technology
  • Mathematics education
  • Mobile
  • Educational apps