Wolfram US Presidents Reference App

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
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Cool reference tool about presidents might misinform.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn basic facts about the lives of U.S. presidents and their achievements. They can compare information about two presidents and link to each president's Wikipedia entry to see its page views over time. Though kids might get a few incorrect facts, with some guidance Wolfram US Presidents Reference App is a solid tool for researching former leaders.

Ease of Play

Features are simple. Consistent interface and intuitive navigation -- by a president's name or dates in office -- make for an easy browsing experience, and kids can easily figure out how to compare presidents. Some users may be unsettled by live-updated information. 

Violence

No violence here, though some references to wars in some presidents' biographies. The four assassinated presidents' violent deaths are reported, though not in graphic detail.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some images of presidents might include someone smoking (such as FDR).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wolfram US Presidents Reference App is a quick-reference tool about the presidents of the United States powered by the Wolfram Alpha search engine. When a user is connected to the Internet, data within the app is live-updated with facts about presidents' lives and achievements.

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What's it about?

WOLFRAM US PRESIDENTS REFERENCE APP provides facts about the presidents of the United States. Its information is sourced by the Wolfram Alpha search engine, which searches the Web for information on a subject (here, U.S. presidents) and updates that data in real time. Each president has a profile that includes both personal and relevant historical information. Each profile includes the places and dates of birth and death; family members; physical characteristics (such as height); associated historical sites (for example, a president's birthplace); and a portrait. The historical information includes a list of offices held, a time line of important dates, a list of notable facts, a summary of the president's Wikipedia entry, and a graph of that entry's hits over time. Users can access and explore these profiles through the Name List (where presidents are listed in order of service), the Date List (which lists all the presidents' terms), or the Compare feature, where users can view two profiles side by side.

Is it any good?

Wolfram's US Presidents Reference App is one of the most innovative apps, but it can provide incorrect information. There's a wealth of data the deeper you dive; the time lines have tons of events and can be tuned by calendar (Julian or Gregorian, anyone?) and extended to include today. The real-time Wikipedia page-view time line is a neat feature to get kids thinking about how and why visits to certain presidents' pages would vary over time. The Compare feature lets them examine political rivals and unlikely pairs from different time periods.

Unfortunately, the app's reliance on online data can be a liability. The information seems to be updated moment by moment, which can take some getting used to. For example, President Obama's younger daughter's name sometimes appears first as her nickname and sometimes as her full name. Elsewhere, information is blatantly wrong: Politician George P. Bush is listed as the son of President George W. Bush, when he is in fact the president's nephew. These shifting sands may give users pause in using this as a go-to reference tool, but the inconsistencies seem to crop up mostly in the personal, more trivia-like sections.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which presidents are interesting to compare and how that helps deepen our understanding of different historical periods and events.

  • Talk about how the Wolfram search engine works, and use this as a jumping-off point for discussing citations, attribution, and the reliability of information on the Internet. Where can we look to verify whether something is true? Which sources can we trust, and which should we question?

App details

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For kids who love history

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