iOS Shapes and Stickers: Counting Activity

Preschool and kindergarten students have many opportunities to count items. Counting activities start with manipulatives and move to counting worksheets. In the 21st Century classroom, young students are also learning to count by playing math games on devices and by completing digital worksheets. While there are seemingly unlimited iOS math games available for sighted students, these games and resources are typically not accessible for students who rely on VoiceOver. However, there is a way to create customized accessible counting worksheets on iOS devices!

In iOS 11, the Pages app came out with a new feature that enables users to add accessible 'Shapes' to a Pages document. These Shapes are basically stickers - simple, solid color images in the shape of assorted items. VoiceOver will announce the name of each sticker! These stickers are divided into categories:

  • Basic Shapes
  • Objects
  • Animals
  • Nature
  • Food
  • Symbols
  • Education
  • Arts
  • Science
  • People
  • Places
  • Activities
  • Transportation
  • Work

The number of stickers in each category varies; there are currently 77 animal shapes. Once a sticker is added, it can be sized and moved around the document. You can also choose to change the color of the sticker; however, VoiceOver does not announce the colors, only the name of the sticker.

Steps for Adding Stickers

  • Open the Pages app.
  • Create a new Pages document: (tap Add/Insert button).
  • Tap the Blank Document.
  • Add a title: (tap the Clear Text button (x) by the title, type in the desired name of the document and press Enter.)
    • In this example, we will name the document "Counting Animals".
  • Activate the text field: (tap the center of the screen).
  • Type the desired text:
    • In this example, we will type "Count the ducks."
  • Move to a new line: (Enter key).
  • Add a sticker: (tap the Add/Insert button).
  • In the popup menu, select the Shapes button: (tap the third button - the visual icon is an overlapping square and circle).
  • Select the desired sticker.
    • In this example, we will add a duck.

Screenshot of Pages with the Add/Insert button and drop down menu with Shape buttons are annotated.

  • Adjust the size of the image: (touch the grabber circle and move it in to decrease or out to increase the size of the duck).
  • Move the duck to the desired location: (touch and drag)
  • Add additional animals: (copy and paste the desired animal, then move the sticket to the desired location).
    • In this example, we will add a total of four ducks.
  • Leave four blank lines so that VoiceOver will pause between counting sets: (press Enter key four times).
  • Repeat steps to add another counting activity.
    • Note: Use different animals in each activity to eliminate confusion.
    • In this example, we will add, "Count only the rabbits" and will add the following stickers: owl, two rabbits, owl, rabbit.


  • Add the text, "Count only the ducks" and create a line of stickers that includes ducks and other animals.
  • Use stickers to create patterns.
  • Sticker colors can be changed. Available colors are blue, lime green, red, gold, pink or black. Students with some functional vision may benefit from different colored stickers; however, VoiceOver does NOT announce the colors.

Note: Currently, it is best to close the document after creating it. Have the student open the document. If VoiceOver does not react in the anticipated way, close the document again or reboot the iPad. 

Accessibility for Adults

VoiceOver works well with selecting the desired shape, adding a sticker, changing the size of the sticker, moving a sticker to the desired location in the document and announcing the sticker. However, currently VoiceOver users cannot copy and paste a sticker. Individual stickers will need to be added manually.

Student Counting Activity

With VoiceOver running, the student should locate and open the Pages app. Then locate and open the desired document (Counting Animals). With the file system in iOS 11, the document should appear under the Recent tab. When the document is initially opened, the VoiceOver focus is on the Documents (Back button) in the top left corner of the screen. 

  • Use a two-finger swipe down to navigate through the tool bar and to read the document. Be ready to pause VoiceOver after the duck, duck, duck, duck. (VoiceOver will automatically have a brief pause before reading the next line of text.)
    • Or, the student can drag his finger from the Documents button in the top left corner to the content (drag diagonally - slightly to the right and down). This will move VoiceOver directly to the content and will skip moving through the Tool bar.
  • Pause VoiceOver after the last duck, using a two-finger single tap.
  • Ask the student how many ducks.
  • The student can manually count the ducks by right swiping through each duck. The student should quickly swipe through the stickers in order to hear only the name of the sticker. If slow right swipes are used, VoiceOver will announce hints, size, position, etc.
    • When using right swipes in Pages, VoiceOver does NOT read the text content. VoiceOver will only read the stickers. In this example, with each right swipe, VoiceOver will read one sticker per swipe in this order: Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, owl, rabbit, rabbit, owl, rabbit. VoiceOver does not read the text, "Count the ducks." or "Count only the rabbits." The next right swipe will take VoiceOver.
    • The stickers will be announced in the order they were created - which is not necessarily the order that they visually appear in the content. It is recommended when mixing animal stickers within a counting group, to manually created each sticker rather than copy and pasting the sticker multiple times.