Updated June 24, 2021 (Original post was published April 2021)
One thing that has been obvious during the pandemic is that even young students need to be up and running on technology – in order to access materials! TVIs are embracing the need to teach technology skills early, so that BLV students are entering kindergarten with tech skills equivalent to their peers. (See Tech Standards: Why Teach Digital Concepts Early?). The next step is to incorporate technology into daily classroom activities. We have learned so much during the 2020-2021 school year about basic spatial math-related concepts and tactile/digital activities to support these concepts. Numerous new posts geared for preschool and early elementary have been added below.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Animal Watch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy post (app along with tactile graphics and large print in paper format)
Math Melodies App was fully redesigned and updated in the fall of 2021.
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).
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!
By Diane Brauner