Assistive Technology in Education/Mathematics Class

Assistive Technology and MathematicsEdit


Many students find mathematics to be difficult, but can you imagine having the additional stress of not having the ability to hear, see, or experience the material as everyone else does. There are many assistive technologies available to students today to make learning easier. The following types of technologies include a variety of accommodations to help service special needs students in a mathematics classroom. Many of the activities that take place in a mathematics classroom include computing mathematical problems, reading and interpreting word problems, and sharing what is learned while interacting in the classroom.

Computation in MathematicsEdit

Calculators: Low vision calculators have been designed that enable individuals suffering from vision problems the luxury of these useful tools. For individuals with very poor eyesight or even blindness, talking calculators make computing fun and achievable. There are basic, scientific and graphing calculators available. MAC OSX has the ability to turn on the talking calculator and also print calculations. This can then be used as the student “showing their work” for a specific problem.

Electronic Worksheets: Students with visual impairments are at a disadvantage when most of the work completed in a secondary mathematics setting involves practice problems from the textbook or worksheets. Electronic math worksheets are software programs that can help a user organize, align, and work through math problems on a computer screen. Numbers that appear onscreen can also be read aloud via a speech synthesizer. This may be helpful to people who have trouble aligning math problems with pencil and paper.[1]

MathPad (IntelliTools) MathPad enables students to do arithmetic directly on the computer. The program is ideal for students who need help organizing or navigating through math problems or who have difficulty doing math with pencil or paper. This program is designed to be a "word processor for math." In addition to providing an accessible writing structure, this program incorporates speech output and adjustable font size. (Mac & Windows) [2] MathPad is beneficial to students who have difficulty working with paper and pencil due to poor fine motor skills, who need speech output, who have difficulty setting up problems, who require immediate feedback or who are motivated and engaged in academic tasks when using the computer(Dell, Newton & Petroff, 2008).[3]

Math Pad Plus (IntelliTools) Students can do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using fractions and decimals. Teachers can enter problems from worksheets or textbooks so students with learning disabilities can work on the same problems as their peers.[4] Students have the option of viewing problems represented as pie charts, fraction bars, or decimal grids; these representations can increase the students’ understanding, especially those who are visual learners (Dell, Newton & Petroff, 2008).[3]

Writing in MathematicsEdit

Today, an extensive amount of writing takes place in a mathematics classroom. Students are expected to work out a problem and explain how they arrived at the answer. Math dictionaries and graphic organizers can help students to organize their thoughts to help share how they arrived at an answer. Note-taking is also an expectation in secondary courses. Paper-based computer pens can help with this requirement.

Math Dictionaries These dictionaries can be downloaded with content specific material such as Algebra, Geometry and measurement. Other dictionaries are available to support other curricular areas as well.

Graphic Organizers Graphic Organizers can help students organize their thoughts and ideas before starting to write. Programs such as Inspiration and Kidspiration are just two examples that students can use to help with the writing process.

Paper-Based Computer Pen Students can use paper-based computer pens to record the teacher and the notes taken during class. A student can refer back to any point in the lesson and match the text with the recording. Students can also slow down and speed up recordings to review material.

Livescribe smartpenEdit

Livescribe Pulse smartpen

LeapFrog FlypenEdit

Virtual Pencil Arithmetic (Henter Math) This is a software tool for students who are unable to operate a pencil effectively. The software does the job of the pencil. It moves to the right spot on the "paper", guided by the user, and inputs the answers that the user selects. It can edit numbers and variables, insert fractions or square roots or other structures, and copy whole equations or expressions.[5] The extensive speech feedback reads problems and provides enough information so students who cannot see the problems can understand the position of digits and can navigate to where they need to be (Dell, Newton & Petroff, 2008).[3] Virtual Pencil Algebra is also available to help solve algebraic expressions.

Interacting with MathematicsEdit

Handheld/Virtual manipulatives Special education students are usually visual learners. Manipulatives are, therefore, an excellent tool for them. When students work with manipulatives, they are using their visual and tactile skills to enhance their learning experience. They not only make learning easier, but can also make learning enjoyable.

Interactive White Boards Interactive whiteboards are designed to engage a wide variety of students in the learning process. They provide teachers with multiple ways to represent information using interactive text, images, sound and video files, and while engaging a broad range of learners. Students can use the same features of the product to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.[6] Two examples of interactive white boards in the classroom are Smart Boards and Promethean Boards.

The Activ tools by Promethean that can be used to accommodate students with special needs include:

-Handwriting recognition tool (changes handwriting to text)Edit
- Flipchart Recorder (records lesson to provides students with playback)Edit
-Highlighter tool (helps students to focus on key points)Edit
-On-screen calculator and Zoom FeatureEdit
-Reusable Math manipulatives (includes protractor, ruler, compass, graph paper and number lines) [7]Edit

Activwand is a 21-inch wand that helps young students, students in wheelchairs, and students with poor coordination reach the Activboard.The Activwand complements Promethean's Activpen as another means to interact with the Promethean Activboard. Since the 21 inch Activwand makes it easier for special needs students and primary learners to reach and touch the Activboard interactive whiteboard, it enhances pupil engagement with the lesson and develops motor skills.[8]


There are many assistive technologies available for students who may have special needs in the classroom. Teachers and parents need to be aware aware of what is available. Training for staff and students may be necessary, but all students can be successful in a mathematics classroom.


  1. Stanberry, K. & Raskind, M. (2009).Great Schools. Assistive technology tools: Math. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  2. ATTO: Assistive Technology Training Online Project (2005). Students with low vision: Math and computers. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  3. a b c Dell, A., Newton, D., & Petroff, J. (2008). Assistive technology in the classroom. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
  4. Cambrium Learning Group: Intellitools. (2005). MathPad and MathPad Plus. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  5. Henter Math. (2005).Virtual Pencil: Making math accessible. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  6. SMART Technologies. (2009). Creating Classrooms for Everyone. Retrieved online March 1, 2010.
  7. Promethean. (2009). The Activclassroom as an assistive technology device. Retrieved March 2, 2010.
  8. PR Newswire. (2006). Promethean releases assistive technology-pointing device. Retrieved March 5, 2010.