It is incredibly frustrating when a visually impaired student is not able to use a calculator in the math classroom with the rest of their peers, all because there isn’t a calculator that is accessible for them. I know this from experience- in my high school level math classes, my school district did not have the resources to provide me with an accessible calculator, so I had to learn to do almost all math concepts by hand while my friends used calculators. The teachers would penalize me for this because it took me longer to do things, but on the bright side, I scored in the 99th percentile for mental math on my ACT (read more about ACT accommodations here). Luckily, there has been a lot of great technology innovations since my first algebra 1 class, especially with the iPad. Here are five calculator apps that help students with low vision in the classroom, including some that are approved for standardized testing.
I started using the myScript calculator app my junior year of high school approximately 18 hours before I took my chemistry SOL test, which is the name for standardized testing in Virginia (read more about standardized testing accommodations here). myScript uses handwriting input that can recognize even the messiest of handwriting and displays calculation results in large, clear text. I got the app for free years ago, but it appears the new version of the app costs $2.99. myScript calculator can be downloaded for iPad here and Android here.
Sometimes I just need a basic four-function calculator with a high contrast display. For moments like this, I turn to the Big Digits calculator app, which features a high contrast colored display and easy to read text. If a dark background is preferred, the iPad display can be configured to show inverted colors- read more about this in my iPad accessibility settings post here. This app also worked flawlessly with VoiceOver and is approved to use with standardized testing. Big Digits costs $2.99 and can be downloaded for iPad here.
First off, please note the space between the word calculator and the plus sign, as there are many apps out there that look like calculators but are actually used for hiding pictures and videos on a device. Now that we have that out of the way, Calculator + is a scientific calculator, graphing calculator, base converter, and so much more. I use this app all the time when doing calculus homework and find it very easy to see, especially with all of the different color modes available. I normally just use the scientific calculator function because that is the only segment of the app that was approved for me to use in testing- read more about how I use apps in test environments using guided access here. The scientific calculator function is free, but the other sections of the app cost money. Calculator + is a free app with in-app purchases ranging from $8 for half of the functions to $15 for all of the functions unlocked, which is what I paid. Download Calculator + for iPad here.
Geogebra Graphing Calculator
Geogebra Graphing Calculator allows users to graph points and perform other common functions for graphing calculators. I use this app in my classes frequently, and while I wish the line for the graph was bolder, it’s easy to see and use. It also has a built in testing mode for exams, though I have not received a definite answer on whether it can be used for standardized testing. I found VoiceOver mildly confusing to use, but that may because I’m not used to using it- Select To Speak on Android worked fine. Geogebra Graphing Calculator is free and can be download for iPad here and Android here, as well as viewed in a web browser here.
Need to remember a bunch of numbers? Magnet Calc is a large button calculator that performs basic calculations. A unique feature about the app is that the user can then drag the answer to their question to another location on the screen, like they are putting something on the board with a magnet. These calculations stay there until they are deleted, and the user can also use the sum function to add up all of the numbers displayed. I liked being able to see all of the numbers displayed, and it helped me when working with particularly long calculations that required several parts. Magnet Calc is free to download and ads can be removed for 99 cents, and for $1.01 on Android. Download Magnet Calc for iPad here and for Android here.
Hopefully these five calculator apps will help students with low vision in the math classroom have access to the same tools as their peers. For more math resources, read my post on five websites that help students in the math classroom here.