Mathematics and Assistive Technology: Improving Outcomes for Students with Learning Disabilities


Students with learning disabilities are most commonly identified with disorders in the academic areas of language arts. However, Geary (2004) estimated that between 5% and 8% of school age students have significant problems with mathematics. These problems manifest themselves in a variety of ways ranging from computation of basic math facts to inefficient problem-solving strategies (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012; Raymond, 2012; Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy, 2012). Other characteristics of learning disabilities such as metacognitive processing, visual and/or auditory perceptual disorders, disorders of attention and hyperactivity, and social-emotional problems also impact the mathematical ability of a student (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012).
Historically, assistive technology (AT) devices and services have been considered primarily for students with multiple disabilities, sensory impairments, and severe disabilities. However, students with specific learning disabilities make up the majority of students striving (or struggling) to meet the rigorous grade level standards within the general education setting (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2010). Students for whom evidence-based instructional strategies for teaching mathematics have been inadequate or unsuccessful, AT may provide ways to support students and improve academic outcomes.
The presenters will model strategic teaching using a multi-media case study as the focus of the presentation. Before, during, and after strategies will be used to engage the participants in learning how AT can improve academic outcomes for students with learning disabilities in the area of mathematics. AT devices will be selected and matched to the individual needs of the student. The presenters will include tips on funding sources for AT as well as emphasize how to teach students and families to utilize the device(s) to avoid AT abandonment. In addition, participants will be given information on how to include the AT in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Participants will receive the following resources to utilize in their own practice:
1. a resource list of AT devices
2. example of AT assessment
3. a sample IEP with the inclusion of AT.
4. an AT fact sheet (English and Spanish) to share with colleagues and families of students with disabilities.
Assistive Technology is defined as an item or piece of equipment or device either acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capability for an individual with disabilities. The definition of Assistive Technology in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, encompasses a broad range of technology from light to high tech (Vanderheiden, 1984). The inclusion in the definition enables the best device to be chosen to meet the needs of the student including those with learning disabilities.
Geary, D.C. (2004). Mathematics and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(1), 4-15.
Hallahan, D. P., Kauffman, J.M., & Pullen, P. C.(2012). Exceptional learners: An introduction to special education(12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
National Center for Educational Statistics (2010). National forum on educational statistics.Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education.
Raymond, E. B. (2012). Learners with mild disabilities: A characteristics approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Smith, T. E. C., Polloway, E. A., Patton, J. R., & Dowdy, C. A. (2012). Teaching students with special needs in inclusive settings (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
Vanderheiden, G. (1984). High and light technology approaches in the development of communication systems for the severely physically handicapped persons. Exceptional Education Quarterly, 4(4), 40-56.