App-titude test

Apps that won’t rot your brain, for the most part

Pop quiz time—how many apps are available these days?

Time's up. The correct answer, according to the online statistics database Statista, is 2.2 million for Android users and 2 million for IOS users. Those numbers represent categories ranging from news and games to fitness and social media. And then there are scholastic apps.

You may already know about apps like Duolingo, Khan Academy and Kindle for e-textbooks, but there are so many others. And some of them, like the ones listed below, are actually pretty useful. And here's the kicker. Unlike most of the supplies on your school shopping list, these are free. And they're all available for both Android and IOS users.

Desmos Graphing Calculator

Did you know that graphing calculators are used in classes ranging from pre-algebra to calculus—not to mention physics, biology, statistics and business courses? If we were conspiracy theorists we might be inclined to think that the folks at Texas Instruments—purveyors of the $150 TI-89 graphing calculator—had lobbyists pushing the graphing calculator on younger and younger demographics. Well, regardless, let’s have three cheers for disruptive technological innovations. The Desmos Graphing Calculator app is free, and it can totally plot polar, Cartesian and parametric graphs—whatever those are.

World Map Atlas 2016

This one’s probably best for the little kids—and maybe adults who snoozed during geography class. Its name may be long and awkward, but World Map Atlas 2016 is actually pretty well made. Its homescreen allows users to choose different tabs to scroll through lists of countries, rivers, peaks and wonders of the world. It’s also searchable. And in addition to pinpointing countries on a zoomable app, it has a variety of information on each country, including flags, population, average lifespan, GDP and a bunch of other stuff. Pop-up ads might be distracting, especially for youngsters, but the app doesn’t require a data connection to run (though you’ll want to update it every once in a while to ensure accuracy).


Bibliographies are time-consuming and, honestly, really frustrating to make. EasyvBib is a helpful tool for creating citations. It allows users to scan book barcodes and/or search books to create citations. Afterward, they can be exported to the user’s email. Plus, users can switch between more than 7,000 citation styles. Who even knew there were that many? Let’s see—there’s the Modern Language Association style manual, the American Psychological Association publication manual and the Chicago Manual of Style. Are we forgetting one? Oh, right—Associated Press style.


That’s right—Wiki-freakin’-pedia. Yes, it’s got a bad rep as an unreliable source for academic research. And it is! You absolutely should not use the EasyBib app to cite it in your college papers. Nonetheless, Wikipedia is an excellent place to begin your research on pretty much any subject. That’s because it’s the most comprehensive reference work that human beings have ever created. According to the Wikipedia website, it has “more than 32 million articles in 280 languages.” And the Wikipedia app has plenty of cool features that make it worthwhile. For instance, users can organize articles into reading lists that can be accessed offline. On the off chance that you’re an avid RN&R reader who lives somewhere else in the world, you should be aware that there are currently mobile providers in 74 countries that don’t charge their customers data fees for using the Wikipedia app. If you’re here in the States, you should be rightfully put out that there are no providers that offer the same in the U.S.

StudyBlue Flashcards & Quizzes

There are dozens of flashcard apps—some free, others pay to play. StudyBlue is a good app for students of any age. The app allows users to create their own flashcards and notes, to which they can add images and audio. Classmates can have discussions and share flashcards between one another. It also has an offline mode that allows users to study when they don’t have access to Wi-Fi and don’t want to waste mobile data. Users have access to more than 350 million student-created flashcards on a variety of subjects, as well as content provided by universities and high schools. And, get this, there’s a potential recreational application hidden in there too—bartending flashcards. Study for that biology exam Thursday, but be sure to set aside time to beef up your knowledge on martini variations before Friday night.