Blu's review: 3 free [fun] learning apps

Am I the only person who likes free stuff? Didn’t think so. Well, I’ve come across 3 free apps, which keep your brain active, that I’ve been enjoying daily for a while now: I love the fact that learning can be fun and is more like playing a game; points, leaderboards, penalties, surprise gifts which all seem to suck me in for more.

Here are the 3 free apps that have got me hooked: Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

1. Elevate – Cognitive Training Tool Designed To Build Cognitive And Analytic Skills.

You can just tell from the way it describes itself: Cognitive Training Tool Designed To Build Cognitive And Analytic Skills. that this is a serious app right.

You can download it here: or from whatever app store you use.

This app looks sophisticated; it’s evident that qualified personnel have developed the ‘games’. There is a pay version and a free version. Using the free version, you get a daily allowance of 3 games to test varying skills. You can choose the training session you want but I always pick the recommended training type (otherwise I’d never pick anything with numbers!) There are also charts and data that tell you how you’re progressing, I ignore them but you might like them.

Today, I did the Visualisation and Word Parts (reading) game, which helps me to develop a more varied and complex vocabulary. I was assessed as “Excellent” in the first game and “Good Job” for the second. However, I’m stuck on the “Double It” game – you guessed it, numbers are involved. This game is meant to increase the accuracy of my mental calculations – it’s dealing with fractions, yuk. It was a long time ago when I last thought about numerators, denominators and improper fractions. I ring my friend – “Oh I love Elevate! Didn't you read the tips?” he exclaims – I end the call.

I’m going to work this out myself but not right now. I need a rest. That said, this is a great brain training app - honest; it’s the only time I do anything involving numbers that stretches me and I hope that it will help keep my brain fully functioning well into my old age.

Wordstacks – A Collapsing Word Search Game

Think crossword puzzle meets Who Wants To Be A Millionaire; there are three ways you can ask for help when you’re stuck.

It’s colourful and makes a happy celebratory sound when you find all the words. You are rewarded too – I win coins at the end of each game and I get a daily surprise gift. These definitely turn on my happy hormones.

You’re shown a bunch of letters all stacked on top of each other with about 7 to 10 letters on the horizontal, you’re given a subject heading e.g. A form of communication, and told how many words you need to find … let the game begin.

There is no time limit, so at least you’re not up against the clock. The first 20 or so levels are really enjoyable because they are relatively easy and I had fewer words to find. But, you still feel as if you are brain training. I’m now on level 42 and have to find 11 words of varying lengths.

I’m playing the game as I write. I’ve only found three words so far – Book, Whisper and Speech; as I find a word and it moves out of the stack, all the letters collapse and moves to a new position. I search intently for another letter but alas no joy.

My three help icons keep wobbling to draw my attention to use them but they cost coins and I only have 360 in my basket (which I now can’t recall if I was given a sum of coins at the start of the game). OK, I’ve just used a helper and paid 75 coins for the privilege, the letter is Y … yup I see it clear as day now,” Yell”. How did I miss it? But now everything has literally fallen into place as a result of that one success. Confetti shower explodes on my phone … I’ve won, I’ve found all the words and hear the satisfying kerching as 25 coins are added to my basket.

Duolingo - language learning website and mobile app

You can download it here: or get it from any app store that you use.

It was nearly 40 years ago when I nervously took my French Oral exam (yep that’s what they were called in the 1980s … innocent times). I got an O’ Level grade C for my French exam and I’m still mighty proud of it.

When a friend sent me an invite to join Duolingo for free, I began to reminiscence fondly about my early French lessons – Quel age avez vous? J’ai onze ans [translation: How old are you? I am 11 years old.] Happy days; I decided to give French lessons a go.

I’m hooked on this app! The cartoon characters, which pose questions, bounce or shake with delight when I get something right. This always makes me smile. The app tests my speech, listening and writing skills; it gets progressively more difficult as my abilities increase.

I win awards for progress and badges for achievements plus I’m learning a new language. Once you’ve completed a level you get four French short stories to read on your app too. And as you progress, you earn points that allow you to make in-app. purchases.

This app really brings out my competitive spirit. I’m on a leaderboard and every week if I stay in the top ten of learners in my group I get promoted to the next level …. If I’m in the bottom ten I’d get demoted (never!). I’m currently in 5th position but L Frank is only a few points behind me … gotta go!

Duolingo and Wordstack have short adverts - that's why I can enjoy them for free. Duolingo is more intrusive as you have to stop and watch the advert before progressing to the next level. And yes I’ve been suckered into buying stuff like Noom weight loss app (which I’ve since stopped), a bracelet to help rebuild the rainforests of Australia and I’m currently considering buying a squat free female urinal. Trust me, for women, it means no more squatting over grubby public toilets. I’ve checked out the price on Amazon … all for under £15… perhaps a Christmas stocking filler for the females in your life … they’ll either laugh or thank you; that’s a win-win in my book.

On a more serious note - please let us know what fun free learning apps you’ve come across. If we like them we'll publish them.

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