George Lucas Educational Foundation
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When it comes to solving word problems in the math classroom, children should be able to explain their thinking. This includes identifying the strategies they used and the thought process behind their decisions. Students should use grade-appropriate math vocabulary and models that demonstrate the steps they took to solve a problem. In this post, we're going to take a look at how screencasting can be used in a fourth grade classroom to meet a Common Core State Standard while addressing a 21st century skill: communicate clearly.

In the fourth grade, students are expected to "Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems." (4.OA.A) In order to demonstrate their understanding of this skill, children should be able to clearly communicate the steps they took to solve a problem by identifying which strategies they used to find their answer and include math vocabulary in their explanation. For the 21st century skill of communicating clearly, we ask children to speak for a variety of purposes (for example, to inform), to articulate thoughts clearly and to make use of technology. Fourth graders can meet the Common Core Standards and demonstrate their mastery of this 21st century skill by using iPad screencasting apps to explain their thinking.

A screencasting app gives children the ability to create a video that shows them writing on their iPad screen and captures their voice as they solve a word problem. This type of technology gives children a space to draw pictures, annotate an image and narrate a multi-step procedure. Screencasting is a straightforward task that requires students to think through problem-solving steps and the best way to explain their thought process. Most screencasting apps follow the same format of giving children a virtual white board to write on, the ability to add images to the screen, and a record button that captures their voice using the iPad microphone.

Here are three of my favorite (absolutely free!) iPad apps that can be used to capture student thinking as they complete a word problem.


The Screenchomp app is the perfect choice for trying out screencasting. The simple-to-navigate user interface and kid-friendly features make it great for a fourth grade classroom. Early elementary school students will also find that this app is easy to use. Children can record their voices as they write on the screen. Then they can play back their finished video from the device, or email a link to the clip.


Educreations is my go-to app as an instructor, but it's definitely straightforward enough for fourth grade students to use. Kids can record as they draw on the screen and add images. They can include pictures saved in the iPad's Photos section or snapshots directly from their iPad camera.


Doceri is an app with tons of fantastic features, but it might all be a little overwhelming for elementary school students. I would recommend introducing the concept of screencasting to younger children with Screenchomp or Educreations, and then trying out Doceri. This app makes it easy to draw lines and shapes, so it's a great fit for the math classroom. Doceri also lets you save your final video to the Photos section of the iPad.

The PARCC Assessment's website offers examples for teachers looking to prepare their students for Common Core-aligned exams. Try posing those sample questions to your students and have them record their explanation using a screencasting app.

How do students in your classroom communicate their thought process? Have you tried any of these screencasting apps?

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Comments (14) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Michael Metcalf's picture
Michael Metcalf
Senior High Mathematics

Mathematics is a language. To be truly proficient in mathematics, one must read, write, speak, translate, and perform mathematics. One does not need an ipad to execute the above skills. Students need to practice, practice, practice through student centered activities, through the kinesthetic process of writing and by orally articulating and communicating with each other their mathematical reasoning while vetting both their procedural understanding and resultant findings.. Students also need an analytical inquiry algorithm that drives the investigation and discovery process allowing them to decontextualize real world problems they can solve algebraically. Technology supplements the learning process. Technology is merely a tool. Given the cost, it's not worth the expenditure. If one wants students to be tech savvy., why not purchase a graphing utility calculator for students and have them explore the myriad mathematical applications that lie therein.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Kelli,
Anything that you can do with a presentation software you can do with screen casting software, except now you can include voice and movement in the final project. I've had students create tutorials explaining concepts in all subject areas, create persuasive commercials, developing tutorials about websites, and more. Screencasting is really a quite flexible and powerful tool in your tool belt.

Kelli Rasmussen's picture
Kelli Rasmussen
4th grade teacher from Minnesota

How do you find the quiet space for this during class? Would each student be able to hear each other in the backgrounds?

Mary's picture

As a math tutor, the number one complaint I get is, "This doesn't make sense", and in a way, I do not blame them. I agree with the comment earlier mentioning math as a language. Students will not connect with their learning unless they know what they are doing, and if you do not know the language you are studying, the drive to get better and succeed at the content is defeated. 4th grade is a fantastic time to incorporate digital media into the classroom. Starting early will provide more incentive for the teacher to teach digital literacy skills. These apps look to cover a wide range of learning styles, and I look forward to learning more.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Kelli!

I think any lesson where the process is helpful to be shared is key. You could look at this to share everything from teaching kids to build sentences like legos with different parts of speech (sentence diagramming(?)), storyboards as mentioned above, timelines for social studies, with kids talking about how events interrelate and connect together- i think it's all about having students discuss their process and creative pathway, helping to share approaches and strategies, and that can apply in almost any subject , lesson or content area.

Tom Fanning's picture
Tom Fanning
Middle school computer teacher from Amherst, MA

Your screen-casting design is awesome! This kind of activity is complex. Students must compose their thoughts in order to have their posts make sense. Meets many of the Standards of Mathematical Practice.
I have had success with middle school students using their cellphone video cameras to record their explanations of math problems. We used our WordPress platform to have each student create a digital portfolio, t hen publish their work and receive comments from peers.
I think this approach, i.e., using video technology as a medium for publishing students' reasoning, can be very effective because kids love it. And when they are engaged, a teacher can create a broad range of learning activities.
My current issue is to see if WordPress or other blog site can allow teachers and peers to enter evaluation data based upon a rubric. This would allow the teacher and students to get feedback and see trends in their performance through the data that is collected.
Although I recently retired, I am hoping to continue my career with a district that wants to move in this direction.
Keep up the good work...I bet the kids love your class!

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Author & Speaker, ADE , Founder of

Having children speak right into their iPad's microphone by tilting their device is very helpful. Another option is to have students go to a quiet space (hallway, library) to record or just have children really spread out in partners or pairs in the classroom. As long as they are speaking loud and clear the background noise won't take away from their explanation and modeling.

Jessica G.'s picture

This is a wonderful article that further explains something I did in my classroom as a resource room mathematics teacher. I have always felt that explaining a concept shows true mastery, and began using Educreations to do this about a year and a half ago. My students were able to collaborate on a script and share the responsibilities of making the video to share with their classmates. I then posted them to our class site so their parents could view them and they could be used as a study tool. I am a technology integrator in my district and have been showing teachers Educreations as well as Screenchomp for a while and most have taken to using Educreations as the go-to app.

While not a screencasting app, another app that works as a whiteboard which I love is "Whiteboard." What is incredible about this is that devices can connect to each other over Wifi so students can work together on different devices. I have gone into classes and paired up students to work on a math problem and assigned each student a color. This way they can both work on the problem but at the end, we will be able to tell who did what portion of the work. Do you know of any apps that connect devices that are also screencasters? That might be the only thing that could make Educreations better in my book!

Jason's picture
Third Grade at Samsula Academy in New Smyrna Beach, FL.

This is a great idea. The reason this caught my attention is because my district recently started the Common Core and are expecting new testing that requires the students to be able to use more of their own thoughts to explain their answers in all subjects tests.
I am looking forward to trying your screen casting idea in my class as soon as I get the technology. I teach third grade and I have noticed that it is easy for the students to learn the skill but when it comes to reading math word problems it is easy for them to get confused with the verbiage. Screen casting is something new to me and seems like a unique and exciting way for the students to develop their skills.

Rob Delisa's picture

The Apps you recommend are all good, especially Doceri, which I used quite a bit to demonstrate lessons on the projector using an Apple TV to stream. I found that fourth graders don't always understand what those four operators are for and often find word problems extremely difficult. Here is a teaching strategy I used to help.

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