Teaching Positions in a Table: iOS Activity

As an educator working with students who are visually impaired or blind, I am always looking for digital resources to teach young students about math concepts. While there seems to be unlimited math concept games for young students in the App Store, very few of these games are accessible with VoiceOver. Students who rely on screen readers, also need to be introduced at a young age to simple math concepts in tactual formats and in digital formats.  (Read more about math digital transitions here.) As our classrooms become paperless, educators need tools to create their own accessible materials. You can imagine my excitment when I recently stumbled across an exciting new feature in iOS 11, called 'shapes'! 

'Shapes' are fun stickers or images that can be added to a document or table. These simple, solid-colored images are fully accessible with VoiceOver. Grids, graphs, and tables are a fundamental piece of math (and science), which require good spatial concepts and mental mapping skills. Students need to understand rows and columns, and the relationship between items in the grid squares. The location of an item is described by which row and column the item is located in.

Shapes are organized by the categories below. There are 12 shapes in each category.

  • Basic (shapes)
  • Objects
  • Animals
  • Nature
  • Food
  • Symbols
  • Education
  • Arts
  • Science
  • People
  • Places
  • Activities
  • Transportation
  • Work

In this post, we will discuss how educators can use Shapes to teach a position in a table using the Numbers app on an iPad.

Note: In the directions, Shapes will be called 'Stickers' as there are many more image options than just standard shapes such as a square or circle!

Create a Table with Shapes

  • Open a new Numbers spreadsheet (blank page)
  • Make your desired grid size (3x4 grid; NOTE: the first row and first column are table headers, so add one extra row and column. A 3x4 grid with headers requires 4x5 grid.)
    • Hold and drag Column handle (circle with two lines located at the end of the column labels) to add or delete columns until desired size is reached.
    • Hold and drag Row handle (circle with two lines located at the bottom of the row numbers)
  • Make grid squares larger (must be larger to accommodate stickers)
    • Select the entire table
    • Tap Format button (paintbrush symbol)
    • Tap Cell Button
    • Under Size, tap Plus Button multiple times until desired size is reached (90)

Screenshot of Numbers table; Format tab > Cell is selected with drop down menu showing font size 80 point.

  • Label Rows 1 -3
    • Touch shaded square in Row Header and type number.
    • Repeat until all Header Rows are numbered
  • Label Columns A-D
    • Touch shaded area in Column Header and type letter.
  • Add Sticker
    • Tap on Insert button (plus symbol)
    • Shapes button (square on top of circle symbol)
    • Select desired shape/sticker (horse)

Screenshot of Numbers table:Format > Style button selected with width at 3 point. Red horse sticker is now loutlined in black.

  • Change color of sticker
    • Tap on sticker
    • Tap on Format button (paintbrush symbol)
    • Tap on Style button
    • Select desired color
      • Options are blue, green, red, gold, pink or black
      • You can choose to add a border around the sticker, change the opacity, add shadow, etc.

Screenshot of Numbers table: Format > Style button selected with width at 3 point. Large red horse sticker is now outlined in black.

  • Decrease size of object so that the sticker will fit into the square.
    • Hold and drag the one of the handles in the corner of the of the sticker and decrease size
  • Move image to desired square
    • Tap on image to make handles appear
    • Drag image to desired square
    • Repeat to add additional stickers
  • Add a title or directions.
    • Tap ‘title’
    • Type in new title or directions
    • Increase font size of Title
      • Tap Format button (paintbrush symbol)
      • Under Size, tap Plus button multiple times until desired size is reached (31)

Screenshot of Numbers table: Title textfield is open and title popup shows font size 31 point, text color black.

Screenshot of Numbers Table: Small red horse in row 2, column C.


Numbers Spreadsheet is accessible with VoiceOver; however, there are some VoiceOver hints that are important to know!

  • VoiceOver will announce the name of the sticker, but ONLY if you drag your finger around the screen.If you swipe through the table, VoiceOver announces all the grid squares as ‘empty cell’. The stickers are announced after all the empty cells.
  • VoiceOver does NOT announce the color of the sticker.
  • When the table loads, VoiceOver announces the grid size. Note: This grid size includes the headers, so even though there the empty squares are 3x4, VoiceOver will announce 4x5.
  • Currently VoiceOver does not announce rows and column headers as you move through the table. Students must keep track of the row/column they are in. Or, once the student locates the horse, the student can drag in a straight line to the top to find the Column Header name (‘C’) or drag in a straight line to the left to find the Row Header (‘2’).

Note: The stickers are NOT permanent. A student can accidently move the sticker to a new location! 

Teacher Hint: This is a great activity to teach a student how to systematically scan a table by moving left to right across each row (or by moving from top to bottom down each column). As the student drags from left to right, ask him to state the Column name (letter) as he moves across each square.

Screenshot of Numbers table: Horse in row 1, column A, rooster 1,C and pig 3,B


Additional Activities

Create a table with multiple stickers.

  • Find a specific sticker
  • Count the horses (or a specific sticker)
  • What sticker is in Row 1, Column D?
  • Ask the student to move the sticker to a specifc location (double tap and hold, then drag the sticker)

Print out the directions "Create a Table with Stickers in Numbers" here.


Collage of teaching positions in a table