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Smart Home

5 ways Alexa can help your kids do their homework

Let your child learn her ABCs and 123s with Alexa.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa has made some headlines for helping kids cheat on homework, but it can also be an honest tool for your child's intellectual enrichment. Check out some great ways Alexa can help kids become scholastic stars.

Math computations

Alexa has the ability to help with math problems beyond simple addition and subtraction -- it can tackle complex equations. Just say, "Alexa, what's 1/8 times 2/9?" and it gives the right answer.

Enabling skills like Smart Math can sharpen a student's math knowledge. That particular skill gives them 40 seconds to solve as many addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems as they can.

Dictionary and thesaurus 

As a kid, I always had a dictionary on my desk. It drove me crazy not to know a word's meaning. Alexa's dictionary would've saved me a lot of time and paper cuts. Now as a writer, I use Alexa's thesaurus all the time to pick better words than one I first thought of.

So, Alexa's dictionary and thesaurus should help any student easily navigate a textbook or novel with ease. I think it will work best with a student in elementary school trying to establish a vocabulary.

Just say, "Alexa, what does hospital mean," and it will give you the definition of the word along with the part of speech (sometimes). To get the synonym or antonym, just say, "Alexa, give me a synonym for the word nice" or "Alexa, what's an antonym for the word disturbed."  

Learning a foreign language

On its own, Alexa only understands English, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese, so asking it about other languages might not work.

The responses I get depends on my device. I asked Alexa something like, "Alexa, say 'Come with me, right now,' in Mandarin," and it gave me the proper translation on my iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon) Alexa app. On my Echo Dot ($50 at Amazon), it didn't give me the translation. The Alexa app did give it to me though, and it translated a lot of words from English that Echo Dot couldn't.

To work around Alexa's language skill limitations, use the third-party service Daily Dose. Just say, "Alexa, open Daily Dose" to learn one or more of its 34 different languages. It will ask what language you want to learn. From there, just ask, "What languages are there?" and it will give a comprehensive list.

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Computer science help

When I was in high school, computer classes consisted of learning Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. Today, kids are learning advanced languages like HTML and CSS. There are many Alexa skills that can hone your child's computer science ability.

Here's a list of a few computer quizzes and learning prompts to help students pick up computer science:

Science projects

I'll admit that science wasn't my favorite subject. Which is why I always had to come up with science projects at the last minute. However, you don't have to.

I came across the Busy Hands skill on Amazon Echo ($70 at Amazon). This skill guides you through the process of assembling a science project from scratch.

It has five science projects just waiting to be unlocked by a student and ranks them in order of difficulty. To get started, just say, "Alexa, open Busy Hands." Then, for example, say, "Alexa, what do I need to make slime?"  

Here's a list of its science projects:

  • Roll A Can With Static Electricity (Easy)
  • Balance A Cork (Easy)
  • Non Spill Water (Medium)
  • Make Slime (Medium)
  • Potato Battery (Hard)

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