STEM Apps for Higher-Order Thinking

These seriously fun apps help students develop and apply a conceptual understanding of science, engineering, and math by solving puzzles, designing solutions to novel problems, and creating new inventions. It's important for students of all ages to engage in this type of critical thinking to prepare for college and career. Check out this list of tools that get students coding robots, engaging in game-based learning, and gathering scientific data to make better sense of our world. 

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Top Picks


Engineering and Inventions

Crazy Gears

Highly applicable STEM-themed free play; easy appeal for wide audience

Bottom Line: A clear, simple, and fun introduction to science and engineering topics that may otherwise feel unapproachable for some kids.

Simple Machines by Tinybop

Excellent elementary NGSS engineering practices embedded in fun games

Bottom Line: Fun gameplay lets kids explore important physics concepts in a solid standards-aligned context.

The Robot Factory by Tinybop

Improve designs, collect favorites in robot creation sandbox

Bottom Line: A well-made and enjoyable STEM app that leverages what's great about play -- experimentation -- to spark engineering interest.

Inventioneers Full Version

Budding engineers create design solutions with fun physics puzzler

Bottom Line: A fun, engaging way to boost critical-thinking and problem-solving skills while learning about important science and engineering practices.

littleBits Invent

Top-notch tool empowers kids to invent, build, and control wirelessly

Bottom Line: Easy-to-use, versatile electronic invention set that works wirelessly with your hand-held device.


Stump students with innovative train-routing puzzler

Bottom Line: Superb combination of logic, real-world learning, and train play.

Minecraft - Pocket Edition

World-building, resource-gathering game almost as good as PC version

Bottom Line: An excellent collaborative, creative, and critical-thinking resource for classrooms using mobile devices, but doesn't offer all the learning opportunities of the PC version.

World of Goo

Stellar physics builder with wiggly, animated goo balls

Bottom Line: A fascinating fantasy world and constant puzzle challenge pull kids into learning about building structures and geometry.

Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics

Kids explore concepts in fun but sometimes frustrating mini-games

Bottom Line: Autodesk Digital STEAM Applied Mechanics can be a fun -- but potentially frustrating -- way to learn about concepts.

Coding and Robotics

Codeable Crafts

Animate stories with accessible drawing tools and coding blocks

Bottom Line: Kids get a simple peek at computer programming principles by animating stories using code blocks.

Blockly for Dash & Dot Robots

Adorable robots teach hands-on coding skills

Bottom Line: You can program robots with code blocks, with plenty of creative options and lots of fun.


Robots, Arduinos, and drones -- the block coding app to rule them all

Bottom Line: Impressive tool for introducing block coding and robotics on a ton of devices.

Sphero Edu

Cool robots and creative play make programming irresistible

Bottom Line: Hub for Sphero robots draws crafty kids who love making into coding, and it empowers them to be collaborators.

Swift Playgrounds

Fun, intuitive iOS-coding app great for newbies or pros

Bottom Line: If iPads are available, this is an inspired choice for learning how to create and tweak code.


Challenging game helps kids learn to think like programmers

Bottom Line: Cargo-Bot is a simple concept that packs a challenging punch and teaches valuable programming skills.

Science and Math

Bugs and Bubbles

Fascinating graphics engage as kids practice pre-reading, STEM skills

Bottom Line: Great bang for the buck with all the content and stages included.

Tangram for Osmo

Fun hybrid puzzles with excellent classroom supports

Bottom Line: Classic puzzler combines toys with digital play to engage and teach all ages.

Playground Physics

Fun video app lets students track motion to explore physics concepts

Bottom Line: This is a cheap way to get students out of their chairs to make physics real and tangible, empowering learners and encouraging curiosity.

DIY Nano

Turn kids into budding nanoscientists who explore the tiniest things

Bottom Line: Scientist-reviewed videos and activities relate nanoscience to everyday life.

Autodesk Digital STEAM Measurement

Interactive, lab-like exploration of measurements is a good STEAM tool

Bottom Line: Autodesk Digital Steam Measurement can be a valuable tool for exploring measurement and data.


Approximate photos of real-world objects with virtual 3-D shapes

Bottom Line: A quick way to make solids more tangible, especially when paired with good lesson plans that get students working directly with formulas.


Bring physics to life using lab sensors built right into your smartphone

Bottom Line: Use your smartphone to gather data and study speed, gravity, waves, and other physics concepts.

The PocketLab

Gather and analyze live data anywhere

Bottom Line: A science sensor that pairs with your mobile device to gather and analyze data is perfect for inquiry-based learning.

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