In the last several weeks, I have received numerous questions about accessible digital math options for K-3rd grade students who rely on a screen reader. With COVID-19 school closures, general education teachers are using fun math apps to teach or reinforce math concepts and skills. Unfortunately, these math apps are visual in nature and are not accessible with a screen reader. Braille math packets and manipulatives are often being used with students - and continue to be a great option! However, it is challenging for some TVIs to share the braille materials in a timely manner; and, students are highly motivated when they have an option of playing a math app! For many students, these math apps can be taught in 1:1 virtual sessions, especially if there is initial support from home.
Note: The apps listed below are also beneficial for students with vision (peers) or with low vision.
First, let's take a look at the tech skills necessary for accessing iOS math apps for grades K-3rd. Included are resources for family members (and/or educators!) who may not be familiar with VoiceOver gestures.The second part of this post lists the Paths to Technology math-related app reviews and posts.
Teaching Digital Math Skills
How do you start transitioning a young student to digital math? First, it is critical to introduce the math skill using manipulatives and tactile formats. The student should learn the braille math code, how to align numbers to solve equations, etc. It is all about tools in the toolbox - to be successful with higher math in digital format, students should be introduced early to very basic digital math concepts. These concepts should mirror the tactile math activity and should systematically progress. 21st century students should be 'multimedia students' who embrace print (if possible), braille, manipulatives, tactile graphics, and digital formats. In the most, we will use the word, 'teacher', to mean the person who will be instructing the student - it might be a family member, general education math teacher, or TVI.
Success with digital math skills requires that the teacher understands:
- It is all about how you teach digital math skills
- Teach math skills tactually first, then transition to digital math skills
Steps to Teaching Digital Math Skills
The teacher needs a clear idea of where digital math will be heading, in order to teach the foundational digital math concepts. For students who rely on a screen reader, these concepts include unique VoiceOver tech skills, which are clearly explained in the related Paths to Technology posts linked below.
- Teacher and student need to be familiar with VoiceOver Gestures and basic tech concepts
Build math-related digital concepts:
- Spatial relationships & mental mapping
- Introduce math concepts tactually
- Pair tactile math concept with accessible digital concept; then, decrease the tactile support
Basic Gestures & iOS Skills
If you need a jump start with basic VoiceOver gestures and the more unique tech skills, the following posts will guide you. FYI: Don't worry, you are not alone! Most people with vision have never heard of "split tap", gesture of the terms "earcons" or "sonification", which means many students with visual impairments frequently have gaps in these areas! Most of these math-related posts include video tutorials.
- Getting Started on VoiceOver on the iPad
- 1 Finger Gestures
- 2 Finger Gestures
- 3 finger Gestures (Most math apps for young students do not incorporate 3 finger gestures, but I've included this post for those of you who are over achievers!)
- Drag and Split Tap
- (Note: See Sonitunes in the proof-of-concept section for future sonification apps geared for early math skills)
- Sonification: Sounds with Meanings post (How sonification is applied to charts and graphs for older students)
Digital Math Skills
Moving Forward with Accessible Digital Math Part 1
- Spatial concepts & mental mapping
Moving Forward with Accessible Digital Math Part 2
- Bar Charts
- Ballyland Sound Memory Game: Matching and Math Grids
- (See Coding Summary Post in the Coding section below for numerous activities
Math Melodies App
*Note: Math Melodies running in iOS 13, currently crashes on some of the excercises; the developer is now aware of this and working to resolve the issue. Math Melodies works in iOS 12 and iOS 13 bug is anticipated to be resolved soon!)
The app has many more math games with progressively more challenging math content. Listed below are the most basic games. Note: There is currently an issue with iOS 13 and Math Melodies; developer anticipates an update to fix the crashing issue in the next few weeks (May 2020.)
- Add or delete
- Addition Positions in a table
- Compare Quantities
APH Math Robot App
- APH’s Math Robot: iOS Game (Basic accessible math facts app)
Number Line Concepts
- Teaching Number Line Math Skills Part 1 (Logan with tactile number lines – basic number line concepts)
- Teaching Number Line Math Skills Part 2 (Logan with tactile number lines addition and subtraction
- Teaching Number Line Math Skills Part 3: Accessible App (Cosmic Numbers; proof-of-concept app. Note: Cosmic Numbers updated spring semester 2020.)
- Cosmic Numbers: Accessible Number Line App Semester 2 (Exciting updates in this app!)
- Teaching Number Line Math Skills Part 4 (Applying number lines skills & additional activities)
- Alligator Crunch: Missing Number (Hundreds Chart activity – currently not yet available in a digital form)
There are too many coding concept posts to list here; see Coding Posts Summary which organizes and lists coding-related posts (unplugged, apps, robots, and programming languages).
- Coding Posts Summary
- Ballyland Code 1: Say Hello This is the first of 3 Ballyland Code apps (Users can purchase 3D printer files)
- Teaching the CodeQuest App to Students who are Visually Impaired This post is based on the original CodeQuest app (Note: CodeQuest has available brf. files representing the grids and 3D printed tactile files of the characters)
- CodeQuest (soon to be released): APH has taken over CodeQuest, field tested the app and made changes. The APH version is anticipated to be publicly released in June 2020.
Proof-of-Concept Apps/Future apps
- Sonitunes (Digital Lines App); University AT Project (This is a proof-of-concept app that has garnered interest from other developers. Stay tuned for more news for future sonification apps for young students!)
Do you know of additional accessible math apps for K-3rd grade students who use VoiceOver? Please share your favorite apps and/or math-related activities!