Providing Personalized Math Instruction for Young Children and Children with Special Needs #GuestPost

Providing Personalized Math Instruction for Young Children and Children with Special Needs 

Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to accomplish in each subject and for each grade. Recently, a number of States have adopted the same standards for mathematics, called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), to prepare students for success both in college and in the workplace. These standards also apply to students with special needs. However, the process of teaching and assessing these standards, with respect to students with special needs, must incorporate instructional supports and accommodations. 

Instructional supports should foster student engagement by allowing multiple, diverse ways for students to act and express their knowledge. Instructional accommodations should allow students to learn within the framework of the CCSS by, for example, enabling adaptations to the material while maintaining the core contents of the standards.

Of special interests are the common core standards in mathematics for primary education. Studies have shown that the quality of early childhood education greatly impacts a child’s potential for increasing their knowledge of math concepts in later years. In the mainstream classroom, tablet devices are increasingly being integrated to provide an interactive experience that enhances learning of math standards. Unfortunately, although there are currently a number of math apps that address common core math standards in the marketplace, there are very few accessible to children with special needs.  

Gamification of math content is one solution to this dilemma. Mathematics is present in much of children’s play activities and, in various studies, significant learning benefits have been shown when teachers can follow up with children by reflecting on the mathematical ideas that have emerged in their play. As such, offering gaming apps that embed common core math content within a framework that is familiar to both teachers and children with special needs would provide a dual benefit. Not only would could these math-infused gaming apps engage children with special needs in learning with respect to common core math standards, but they can ensure inclusiveness for all children. 

One such math app that addresses this need is OctoPlus, which provides personalized math instruction to young children and children with special needs and integrates various math topics found in the common core math standards. OctoPlus, available on iTunes at, provides kids with fun, interactive math addition problems that are accessible based on a student’s math skill and disability - whether for regular daily practice or to challenge a student beyond their current skill level. 

In fact, in a recent study involving thirty-four participants (“Enhancing Self-Motivation through Design of an Accessible Math App for Children with Special Needs,” Human-Computer Interaction International Conference, 2015), results showed significant measures of self-motivation when using this educational math app.  We believe therefore that with the further development of gaming apps such as these, children with special needs can be accommodated into learning and mastery of the new CCSS standards, thus increasing their opportunities for future success.

Guest Post by Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., Zyrobotics, LLC


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