Assistive technology (AT) can be a huge help for kids with math issues like dyscalculia. Certain AT tools for math are common, like calculators and graph paper. But there are lots of other AT tools that can be used for math.
It’s important to understand how your child struggles with math. That knowledge can help you figure out which AT will suit your child’s needs. Use this guide to learn about options, and where to access them.
Types of Assistive Technology Tools for Math
Here are some of the most helpful AT tools for math.
- Calculators can help kids solve math problems—from basic math to more complex equations. Most parents are familiar with basic electronic calculators. Kids with math issues may prefer calculators that have buttons with large numbers and symbols. Today, calculators come in many forms, like advanced graphing calculators and computer apps. Some can even solve complex equations with variables.
- Math notation tools let kids write or type out the special symbols and numbers used for math equations, such as the symbols in 𝑥 = −𝑏±√𝑏2−4𝑎𝑐⁄2𝑎. Writing out these equations by hand can be challenging for kids who have trouble writing numbers and symbols. And most traditional word processors aren’t great at handling math symbols.
- Graph paper has a grid to make it easier for kids to line up numbers and symbols in math problems. That’s very important when keeping track of things like place value. Many kids write on traditional graph paper with a pencil. Kids with math issues may prefer graph paper that has large graph squares. Today, there’s also digital graph paper.
- Graphing tools are typically digital tools that help kids graph the path created by an equation. For example, y = x2 would be graphed as a parabola. Kids who take algebra or calculus can use these tools to solve graphing problems.
- Drawing tools help kids draw lines, shapes, angles and other geometric features. Traditional classroom tools like rulers, stencils and protractors can help with drawing. These days, there also are specific computer programs for drawing. Kids who study geometry or trigonometry may find them particularly helpful.
- Equation-solving tools are digital tools that help kids work with equations. Unlike calculators, equation-solving tools don’t solve a problem. They help kids figure out how to solve a problem. For example, an equation-solving tool can help kids figure out how to solve for x in 3 + x = 11. These tools are especially helpful for algebra students.
- Manipulatives are objects that help kids solve math problems in alternative ways. Manipulatives can also illustrate math concepts. A classic example is the number line. Kids can use a number line to add or subtract numbers, without having to write down any numbers or symbols. They can also use it to help them understand the concepts of adding and subtracting. Another example is an abacus, which allows kids to do calculations by moving beads. Manipulatives can be physical objects or virtual objects on computers.
- Graphic organizers help kids break down and lay out the steps for solving math problems. For instance, a graphic organizer for a word problem may have spaces for kids to write and keep track of important numbers. It may help kids think through what the question is asking. Graphic organizers can be digital or pen and paper.
- Text-to-speech (TTS) lets kids read aloud numbers and calculations when solving math problems. When used for math, TTS is often combined with other tools, like a talking calculator.
- Dictation helps kids write out math problems by speaking. Like TTS, dictation can be combined with other AT tools for math. For instance, math notation tools sometimes let kids dictate equations.
Where to Access Assistive Technology for Math
There are many ways to access AT tools for math. You can find traditional “low-tech” classroom tools, like rulers, basic calculators and graph paper—including calculators with large numbers and symbols and graph paper with large graph squares—at a school supply store. Your child’s teacher may also be able to provide these tools.
There are also adaptive tools designed for kids with math issues. A common adaptive tool is manipulatives like blocks and number lines. The school may provide these in your child’s classroom. But you can also buy them online.
Today, however, lots of AT tools for math are being used on one of three computer platforms for assistive technology:
- Desktop and laptop computers: Computers typically have built-in AT options like TTS. You can also download software programs to help kids with math.
- Mobile devices (like tablets and smartphones): Mobile devices also have built-in AT. And you can add math tools to mobile devices with apps. Explore Tech Finder to find apps to help your child with math.
- Chromebooks (and Chrome browsers on any device): Chromebooks have some built-in AT, too. You can add Chrome apps and extensions to find specific tools to help with math.
Learn more about assistive technology. See examples of classroom accommodations to help kids with math, which includes AT. Read about AT tools you can find for free online. And hear an expert talk about how to use online tools and calculators to help your child with tricky math homework.