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14 Virtual Tools for the Math Classroom

More and more classrooms are gaining access to technology that can be used with students. Whether you're modeling a lesson, creating stations, or working in a one-to-one classroom, virtual tools can promote student engagement while increasing academic success.

Here are some apps for iPads -- along with a few other tips -- that can transform your daily lessons and are definitely worth checking out!

 

Base Ten Blocks

Number Pieces is a great free app that allows every student with an iPad to have an endless number of base ten blocks at their fingertips. Whether they are learning basic place value, modeling how to add decimals, or exploring expanded notation, this app is worth looking into. Children can write all over the iPad screen and demonstrate their thought process as they manipulate the virtual base ten blocks.

Protractor

Even on an iPad, a protractor can be used as a tool to measure angles. Children can simply practice making acute and obtuse angles by moving the line on the screen, or they can measure the angles in objects placed on top of their iPad. Try putting traditional pattern blocks or cutout paper shapes on top of an iPad screen. There are even a few apps that let you use the camera on an iPad or an iPod Touch for measuring angles.

Graph Paper

Geometry Pad lets children draw lines and shapes on graph paper. They can plot points on this coordinate grid and even add text to the screen. This app is easy to use and includes tons of functions to try out. Educreations also lets students change the background of their screen to graph paper before they start writing.

Geoboard

Say goodbye to rubber bands! This virtual tool is perfect for elementary and middle school classrooms. Kids can simply create polygons on their geoboard to show off different quadrilaterals and triangles. They can also find the perimeter and area of each shape.

Ruler

Ruler is a neat app to try out on your iPad -- it simply turns your screen into a ruler. Students can measure items placed on their screen in inches and centimeters. They can solve perimeter and area problems with the information they gather using this virtual measurement tool. There are also apps that help children learn how to use a ruler properly.

Pattern Shapes

A neat alternative to traditional pattern blocks, Pattern Shapes from the Math Learning Center is a must-have for iPad math classrooms.  In addition to moving each piece around the screen, kids can draw all over the screen to show their work.  A virtually endless supply of pattern blocks at your fingertips can help students who need extra support or strategic intervention.

Clock

Whether you’re teaching elapsed time or just helping students monitor their pacing and stamina, the timer built into the clock that comes with the iPad (or one of the many comparable options) is a great addition to your classroom. It's perfect for teachers with one iPad or for children working in small groups, as they can now calculate how much time has passed or learn how to read a clock with these virtual tools.

Glossary

The Common Core State Standards stress the importance of having children use math vocabulary in written and spoken explanations of their thinking. MathTerms Glossary can help students learn definitions of different words so that they can use them appropriately. It's a great reference tool for students in a one-to-one classroom and even has Spanish language entries.

Calculator 

There are lots of calculators that can be downloaded for iPads including ones that feature scientific functions.  Two of my favorites include handwriting recognition technology so students can use their finger or a stylus to write a problem and see the correct answer.  MyScript Calculator and MyScript MathPad are great virtual tools to have available to students who want to check their work.

Want to learn more? Here's a webcast from APPitic, a site maintained by Apple Distinguished Educator that focuses on using the iPad to teach Common Core math.

A quick substitution of a traditional tool can be a great way to experiment with new technology. Have you tried out any virtual math tools in your classroom?

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Kara Carpenter's picture
Kara Carpenter
Former teacher, expert in cognition & learning, and co-founder of Teachley

Plus, there's some great research that backs up your point. Check out Doug Clements work about the advantages of virtual manipulatives in early childhood mathematics or more recent research that shows a combination of physical and virtual manipulatives to be most effective:

Clements (1999). 'Concrete' Manipulatives, Concrete Ideas. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. 1 (1).

Zachariam, Olympiou, and Papaevripidou (2008). Effects of experimenting with physical and virtual manipulatives on students' conceptual understanding in heat and temperature. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 45 (9).

MrsPincock's picture

Used the Number Pieces Basic (newer version by same creator & which I like better) today to help a struggling student. I had just downloaded it this morning. What did the student do? Ask to do more math in her free time! Thanks for the info ...

Alejandro Gomez Arangua's picture

"Decir que la matematica se puede ensenar con hojas de calculo es como decir que un nino puede tener unas vacaciones mirando un folleto"
"Saying math can be taught with worksheets is like saying a child can have a vacation by looking at a brochure" - @d_martin05

Samantha Edwards's picture
Samantha Edwards
2nd grade teacher from Kingsford, Michigan

Thank you for the great resources, Monica!
My colleagues and I were just discussing apps for using geoboards today! I will definitely be passing on the information tomorrow!
I also agree that using concrete models first is important, but the virtual experience is a fantastic supplement (and the students love using the iPad whenever they can!)
I also have students who gain iPad time as a part of their reward systems. It does work and helps to increase desired behavior in my classroom.
I am looking forward to introducing your recommendations to all of my students!

Alejandro Gomez Arangua's picture

Children must know what is a binomio before using virtual tools,too much of them,give poor results for USA in international tests.

Dennis Pack's picture

You do realise there are more affordable devices other than iPads? Those of us that work in developing countries iPads are out of reach ... but then again, we are more concerned about human rights violations in factories that produce these devices.
A more balanced approach to educational resources would be appreciated.

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