Apps for Students to Build Math Word Problem Solving Skills and Graphics Literacy Skills

In a recent online visit with AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy project director Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, an eighth grader in Montana shared, “I love the fact that when learning about graphs you get to check out the animals. That is really cool.” 

The AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy Project

The student was referring to the recent lesson he completed about accessing information in line graphs. The lesson included content about the cane toad of Australia.  Delivered through an accessible iPad app accompanied by graphics in the students’ literacy medium, AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy is the second iPad app and materials developed by Dr. Carole R. Beal of the University of Florida and her team led by Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum at the University of Arizona. 

Each lesson in the AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy app includes the opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know about the type of graphic that is the focus of the lesson. Then, with their teacher of students with visual impairments, they review information about the graphic category (e.g., bar graphs, line graphs) and learn strategies to be more efficient getting information from it. Finally, they apply the information by answering multiple choice and open-ended questions designed to build their prediction skills based on data presented in the graphic. The app is accompanied by a curriculum for teachers of students with visual impairments (or others) and provides guidance to support the teacher in building students’ graphics literacy skills.  Each lesson contains possible learning objectives, key vocabulary, information to include in the review, and a rubric to use in evaluating student understanding.  The graphics, available in print and braille, are of high quality and are produced by the Lighthouse in San Francisco.  The app is being developed by Study Edge, an education technology company located in Gainesville, Florida.

In spring 2018 there are 48 students with visual impairments and their 18 teachers helping the team evaluate the feasibility of the app as a learning tool for students at the pre-algebra (grades 6 and 7) level. In 2018-2019 the team will do a larger intervention study and is seeking 70 students to participate.  Want to learn more?  Visit the AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy website here or email Penny Rosenblum at rosenblu@u.arizona.edu.

AnimalWatch Vi Suite App is FREE in the App Store!

For students at the pre-algebra level (grades 5-7) developing math word problem solving skills can be a challenge. AnimalWatch Vi Suite is a package containing an accessible iPad app and graphics that gives students practice on skills such as adding fractions with like denominators; multiplication and division; and converting units of measurement. All content is aligned with the sixth grade Common Core. While building their math word problem solving skills, students learn about environmental science content.  Each unit features an animal that is endangered or invasive.

            App features include:

  • Scaffolded hints to guide students in solving the math word problems
  • Built-in scratch pad
  • Four choices of background/font combinations
  • Built-in speech for those not using VoiceOver but wanting speech access
  • Descriptions of all images
  • Animal sounds

Through the American Printing House for the Blind, the AnimalWatch Vi Suite app is available for free in the App Store. A companion web site, AnimalWatch VI Suite, contains print and braille versions of the graphics appearing in the app. For braille readers, the graphics must be run through a fuser (e.g., Pictures in a Flash) on micro-capsule paper. The web site also includes the user guide and .brf files in both UEB and Nemeth within UEB context so those wishing to prepare hard copies of app content have this option. Download the AnimalWatch Vi Suite flier here.

An article, written by Drs. Beal and Rosenblum, in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness details the national study conducted in 2014-2015 in which the efficacy of the materials was evaluated, showing positive results.

Beal, C. R. & Rosenblum, L. P. (2018). Evaluation of an app for math word problem solving by students with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 112(1), 5-19.

Both AnimalWatch Vi Suite (R324A120006) and AnimalWatch Vi: Building Graphics Literacy (R324A160154) were funded through awards from the Institute of Education Sciences. The opinions are the views of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Institute or the U.S. Dept. of Education.

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