Math Rocket is a mainstream math facts curriculum, focusing on speed and memory. Many schools systems are using this curriculum and TVIs have been asking about the accessibility of this program. For more information about the curriculum, go to the Math Rocket website.
Paper and Pencil Worksheets
The paper and pencil worksheet-based version is a ten-minutes-a-day program. Students learn 2 facts and their reverses on each worksheet presented in a controlled sequence. Students master skills at an individualized pace.
Accessibility Of Paper and Pencil Version
Is the paper and pencil version accessible? Dawn, a TVI, posted on social media that she worked with Dr. Don Crawford (who created Math Robot) to create these worksheets in braille. Dawn shared the braille files with him; contact Rocket Math for the braille files. (Big thanks for Dawn for creating the braille files and for sharing them!)
Math Rocket App
Rocket Math has iOS addition and iOS multiplication apps. The Home version is a limited free trial (in-app purchase is required to move beyond Level K) while the full School version is available for $2.99. Schools can receive a 50% discount when buying the app through Apple's Volume Purchase Program.
Accessibility of iOS App
The iOS Math Rocket Add Home app is very close to being accessible. While most math apps for elementary students are created as images and therefore are not accessible with VoiceOver, Math Rocket was created with accessible text and images. Currently, there are three identified items that would make the app user-friendly for students who rely on a screen reader.
- Label all buttons: Currently, a handful of buttons that are not labeled correctly (VoiceOver only announces "button" but does not announce the name of the button).
- Read the full math equation as one chunk of information: Currently, students right swipe to hear the first number in the math equation, right swipe again to hear the second number, and the third right swipe moves to the numbers in the answer block. "Plus" and "equals" is not announced. Ideally, VoiceOver would announce the full equation as one chunk of information. Example: "2+3="
VO focus automatically on the math equation: Currently, when a page loads, the VoiceOver focus is on the last item of the page, the Done button. When the page loads, the VO focus should be on the math equation and should immediately announce the full math equation.
- Note: These math equations are designed to increase the student's speed and therefore are timed. By the time the student navigates VO to the math equation, the allotted time is almost gone.
- Note: Once the timer has run out, the app automatically reads the math equation and answer out loud and the student does have the option to complete the problem in his own time frame.
Note: There is a popup menu for parents that requires touching two randomly moving dots simultaneously. These dots are not accessible with VoiceOver and you MUST turn off VO in order to exit this popup!
There are a few more VoiceOver tweaks that could be made to the app; however, these tweaks are icing on the cake and not critical for students to be able to use the app.
Teachers of the Visually Impaired: Since there are free versions of Math Rocket Add and Multiply apps, you can try these versions with students - knowing that they are not fully accessible at this time. However, with a little extra instruction from you, students who use VoiceOver can use this app. Example: When a page with a new math equation loads, teach the student to quickly touch in the upper middle of the screen to move the focus to the math equation. Students should be taught to rapidly drag his/her finger to the middle upper part of the screen as the page loads, then quickly drag straight down to hear both numbers, continuing to drag directly to the answer numbers. Use a split tap (maintain contact with the screen with the dragging finger and quickly dropping a second finger to the screen) in order to select the desired answer. Using drag and split tap, it is possible to read the math equation and answer the question in the allotted time! It will take practice to be fast enough - remember, speed is a goal of this game and is part of the game's motivation!
Math Rocket Web-Browser App
Math Rocket is currently developing a web-browser version and recently asked for beta testers. This beta version is anticipated to be available in a few weeks.
Note: Dr. Crawford stated that he is looking for mainstream beta testers (not specifically for accessibility testers).
General App Accessibility
Editor's Opinion: As we all know, mainstream math apps geared for elementary students are typically NOT accessible. Developers are either not aware of the accessibility issues or they chose not to address the accessibility issues. TVIs should work with app developers - first to let them know that there is a need for accessibility (and identify specific issues that are not accessible). If no-one asks about accessibility, developers do not have a reason to make their apps accessible. If accessibility is not built-in from the ground up, the cost to make modifications is often the reason developers do not add accessibility. If enough educators ask for accessibility - then the cost might be justified. Understand that making changes does put a financial burden on the app developer; however, we also know that our students with visual impairments and blindness should have access to the same educational resources as their peers. By contacting developers about accessibility, our goal is to bring awareness, encourage developers to modify existing apps, and to carefully consider accessibility from the start when building future apps.
TVIs: Please consider trying apps - like Math Rocket that are close to being accessible - and then provide positive feedback to the app developer. As a group, we can make a difference! When an app is accessible, let the developer know that students who are visually impaired are using the app and recommend the app to colleagues in the VI field and to your school system. Let's actively and strongly support those app developers who do create accessible apps!