Assistive technology and mathematics: What is there and where can we go in special education

Jun 27, 2013, 14:44 PM
Bouck, E. C., & Flanagan, S. (2009). Assistive technology and mathematics: What is there and where can we go in special education. Journal of Special Education Technology, 24(4), 17-30.


  • This article reviewed literature pertaining to assistive technology use in mathematics for K-12 students with high-incidence disabilities from 1996 to 2007.
  • The three types of assistive technologies used in the studies were anchored instruction, computer-assisted instruction, and calculators.
  • Anchored instruction involves presenting math lessons or problems via video or DVD in which the content is being introduced in a real world context.
  • Computer-assisted instruction typically involves having students use a software program to complete practice problems, view tutorials, and view simulated activities.
  • While anchored instruction and computer-assisted instruction are focused on increasing the skills and knowledge of students through instruction, calculators used as an assistive technology tool are provided as an accommodation to help students make math computations.
  • This review summarized recent studies using assistive technology in math and also offered ideas for further research in the area.


  • The studies reviewed were conducted in various educational settings.


  • The authors conducted an online and manual search of articles published between 1996 and 2007 that met the following criteria: (1) participants were K-12 students in the U.S. with high-incidence disabilities, (2) the studies included a component where AT was used to teach and increase mathematics skills, and (3) the studies involved original research.


  • Based on the above criteria, the search yielded 17 articles, which explored the use of anchored instruction, computer-assisted instruction, and calculators as assistive technology tools for students with high-incidence disabilities.
  • The research on anchored instruction demonstrated that the technique positively impacted the performance of both students with disabilities and at-risk students by improving their problem solving skills and allowing them to apply math to real-world situations. 
  • Despite anchored instruction’s usefulness in increasing math problem-solving skills, several of the studies found that students with disabilities’ math computation skills decreased after participating in an anchored instruction intervention, thus, highlighting the importance of providing both basic math skill instruction and anchored instruction activities simultaneously.
  • Studies of the effectiveness of computer-assisted instruction software generally demonstrated that participants were able to increase their math computation skills, which are often the primary activity students engage in when using math software programs.
  • Some studies also demonstrated an increase in participants’ math problem-solving skills, although this was not always the case.
  • The articles looking at students’ use of calculators in math generally suggested that the use of calculators on applied math reasoning tasks was more beneficial for students with disabilities when compared to students without disabilities; however, some studies concluded that there was no statistically significant difference in the benefit that students with and without disabilities gained from using a calculator during math assessments.
  • In general, the articles reviewed indicate students with high-incidence disabilities benefit from the use of assistive technology in math.
  • Math