Arithmetic (math) has always been one of the three Rs in school curriculum. Whether in elementary or high school, math is a rudimentary requirement for all students. Math starts with the very basics of addition and proceeds onward to higher level coursework such as calculus. It requires mental, physical, and visual abilities to perform the mathematical problems. Many students with disabilities struggle with school work, especially classes that are related to math. Assistive technology for math has not been extensively explored or developed within the technology that is currently available for students. However, for the struggling student, or physically challenged writer, or visually impaired, there are some adaptive solutions being produced. Software programs for the computer as well as special calculators and other solutions are now available. This article will introduce you to some of the choices; however, searching the Internet and investigating assistive technology catalogs will lead you to more adaptive learning solutions.
Math Talk is one option that is helpful to students who can’t write and need to perform advanced mathematical computations such as in trigonometry or calculus. When used in conjunction with Dragon Naturally Speaking, this program lets users speak commands into a microphone and write the problem on the screen. Derivatives, integrals, Greek symbols, sine curves, exponentials, series, math symbols, and much more can be produced by speaking out the equation. This cutting edge technology is beneficial for any student who has writing issues. More information is available at www.mathtalk.com.
The Virtual Pencil is another program that assists students who have problems writing with pen and paper- everything can be completed on a keyboard. It features a tutorial that guides the student through the problems and gives feedback when a mistake is made. The second level is the test mode where the student or person completes the problem without the help. There are two different versions available for algebra, and basic mathematics. You can find out more at www.hentermath.com.
Yet another option in the wide variety of math assistive technology is Math Pad. This software is similar to Virtual Pencil, where students are guided through the problem-solving process. It helps explain the four basic operations and leads students through each problem. In Math Pad Plus, fractions and decimals are also available. A product demonstration is available online at www.intellitools.com. Additionally, this program has an overlay for those using the IntelliKeys keyboard.
There are calculators that talk for individuals with visual limitations. Texas Instruments has both a standard calculator and a scientific calculator that speaks each number and operation as they are entered. Calculators are available with large buttons and display. Graphing calculators are also available with large display and audio output. Texas Instruments products can also download information onto a computer.
There is a Braille product known as Braille math for those who know the basics of Braille writing. In 1965, Abraham Nemeth, a professor of mathematics at the University of Detroit, published a method of writing mathematical equations in Braille. The Nemeth Code provides a conceptual framework for the students experiencing visual impairments use when transcribing into Braille and solving higher mathematical equations and scientific notations. It uses linear format, spatial arrangements and special symbols to convey the meanings. This can be done using a Perkins Brailler and/or translation software.
LaserLine Graphics are tactile graphics designed for use by individuals who are blind or have low vision. They are designed to provide clear and accurate tactile access to complex visual information, with various pattern fills, line styles, and directional indicators. These tactile graphics are produced to order, such as Vector-based graphics files in an XML-based conversion process. Items that can be converted into tactile graphics include maps, diagrams, flow charts, and educational materials for use in math and science. These Graphics are available in many sizes ranging from 11 x 11.5 inches to wall-size foldouts. The web site which gives information is www.ghbraille.com
Marvel Math is a program that lets students learn math in a fun environment with animated characters as their guides. This program has the power to scan math worksheets or tests and produce the problems in an electronic format. It is available through www.marvelsoft.com
Attainment Company sells many mathematical concept software products that teach math problems involving money and time. They are designed for individuals with lower cognitive skills. Additionally, there are subject topics such as Math in the Workplace and personnel budget management. More information can be found at www.attainmentcompany.com.
Learning Drum is an educational toy for teaching the alphabet and counting skills to children with cognitive or learning disabilities. As the child taps the drum, letters, numbers, and patterns flash on its top. The drum has four learning modes (ABC, 123, Interactive Song, and Follow the Beat). It also has three background melodies and two drum sounds. Beating the drum to music and lights stimulates the senses and develops motor skills and awareness of cause and effect. The drum has a child-size handle and volume control. Check out www.leapfrog.com website for more information and products.
123 and Counting
Whether it is a simple counting example or solving a quadratic equation, there are products out there for you to try. The activity being performed needs to be analyzed to determine the best product. The student’s ability will progress over time as they learn to enjoy different math concepts through the years. What works in one curriculum, such as algebra, may not work in the next succession of math courses, such as trigonometry and calculus. The individual may need a different technology option with each grade level. Time is needed to learn the new technology on top of the coursework, so teachers need to be patient. In the beginning a student may not be able to complete work in a timely fashion during the learning curve of the product and the concepts. It is also important to realize that math is used outside of math class. Daily bookkeeping, science classes, and trivia sometimes require the same skills and adaptations. However with these solutions, students and individuals will become more independent and soon learn to love working with numbers. It’s 123 and onward from here.