Tools and Strategies for Math, Studying, & Organization

This page is not a course for professional development credit. It is provided as a resource and point of discussion for educators and parents. Source: AT Tools and Strategies for Math. Studying and Organization Workshop hosted by the AZ Dept of Ed as part of the Technology for Learning Communities Workshop Series presented by Judith Sweeney on February 18-19, 2010.

Onion Mountain Technology is a great resource for products and handouts. When we provide flexible and versatile learning environments for all of our students,

we are utilizing the concepts of Universal Design. Originally this term was coined to explore products and architectural designs that meet all people’s needs, but we now use the term to also apply to learning environments so that all the students in our classes have universal access to learning. We provide students with the tools, techniques, and strategies they need to learn, retain, and recall information as well as to communicate and share what they have learned and what they believe.

CAST , a leader in research and implementation of universal design for learning talks about three “key dimensions” which should be included in any universally designed curriculum. These include:
• providing multiple representations of content
• providing multiple options for expression and control
• providing multiple options for engagement and motivation


Success in math will be impacted by our realization that students have different learning styles and we consider brain-based research. Remember that memory can be spacial-experiential (tied to meaning and patterns) or rote (needing to be continually relearned or used). When learning is tied to real-life, it is more likely to be remembered. Eric Jensen , The Learning Brain, reports that 5-10 minutes of music (60-72 beats per minute) before math class gets the brain ready for learning. Study of music before the age of 5 helps develop spatial reasoning associated with math (i.e., geometry).

According to the NCTM (, all school
math programs should deal with the following on all grade levels:

Number and Operation understanding.
Algebra understanding.
Geometry understanding.
Measurement understanding.
Data Analysis and Probability understanding.
Problem Solving ability.
Reasoning and Proof ability.
Communication ability.
Connections understanding.
Representation ability.

Tools for Math

Low tech (no batteries/electricity)

  • Remember that 2/3 of students with ADHD need color for learning. Check out these resource articles: Using Colors and Colors as AT
  • Master Ruler - The ruler has multiple transparent overlays that can go over a white 1" increment ruler showing 1/2", 1/4", 1/8", 1/16", and 1/32" increments.
  • Number lines with moveable rings
  • Charts - think about using Microsoft Word and color-coding columns
  • Magnets, stamps and slantboards
  • Math tables - foldable math tables called "FlexiTables" can be ordered from OnionMountainTech

Mid tech (small, handheld, portable, battery-operated)
  • Various calculators (talking calculators with earphone jack, large keys, money calculators, conversion calculators, checkbook calculators)
  • Talking Hot Dots Pen - Create an interactive multiple choice lesson in minutes. Place a hot dot next to the correct answer and cold dots next to the wrong answers.
  • LiveScribe SmartPen - Allows the student to record the lecture while writing notes (also shop for this at Staples and Target).

High tech (uses some type of computer processor)
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro v7 - scan worksheets and use "typewriter enabling" or put in form fields using the Forms Menu (extend features in Adobe Reader). Students can fill in using Adobe Acrobat Reader. This feature also allows access to a measuring toolbar.
  • PowerPoint slides - put the chart in the background and then add little pictures as moveable elements on the screen (layout view)
  • Smart Notebook - lock the background image (e.g., chart) and leave other elements as moveable
  • Microsoft Word Equation Editor - insert object from Microsoft Word. Here is a graphic from OnionMountainTech of the menu options. Look on SharePoint for a QuickStart document with step-by-step instructions.
  • Math Facts with Excel - use Conditional Formating to give immediate feedback about student answers. Once again, look on SharePoint for the QuickStart.
  • Use Inspiration and Kidspiration for math visualization (webs, sorting, categories).

GPAT Chart - AT Devices for Students Struggling in Mathematics

Quick Overview Summary of AT Ideas for Math
The following chart was developed by Easter Seals Southwest Human Development AT Program, Phoenix, Arizona, 2009. Adapted from a project in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education. If you want to view without downloading, right-click below and choose "open link in new window."

Studying & Organization

Organizational skills plague many students in --- and out – of special education. Students have problems keeping track of assignments and long-term projects; finding and storing papers; keeping their desks, lockers, and backpacks organized; making their work readable and organized; prioritizing the importance of competing tasks; and remembering the sequence of steps in order to complete a task.

Before trying to identify the kind of organization problem(s) a student has, it is vital to determine how a student learns, remembers, thinks and organizes most easily and naturally. Learning styles may tend towards information presented visually, auditory (sounds), or kinesthetically (movement). Students may be much more comfortable with analytical, linear and sequential organizations and patterns (outline and sequences) or with global (multivariate) organization (webs and ideas first, then the links). Resource: Learning Styles: A Guide for Teachers and Parentsby Barbara K. Given, 2000, Living Forum Publications.

Global Thinkers tend to:
  • Miss details and small things.
  • Like to see (keep in sight) all the things they are currently thinking about/doing (especially if they are visual learners).
  • Skip steps.
  • Like to set up the categories so everything can be included (but the actual sorting is too boring/time consuming).

Linear Thinkers tend to:

  • Be concerned with details.
  • Have trouble working in the midst of visual clutter.
  • Like things put away in an organized system.
  • Do things precisely and in order.
  • Like to put things away but may have more trouble defining meaningful categories that include everything.

Judi Sweeney's Types of Organizational Problems from the Inventory and possible tools/strategies:
(Suggestion, have the teacher do the inventory first, so that the teacher is not imposing his/her style on the student)
  • Temporal (defining characteristic of students with ADD/ADHD) - timers , pagers, calendars, schedules, homework binder
  • Categorical (semantic) - multiple colors of highlighters, sorting bins, category tables, Inspiration/Kidspiration, Talking Photo Album
    • Use of color is a stronger memory tool than pictures or words
    • Practice using Guess-the-Google game (older students)
  • Spatial (personal space issues, messy work spaces/backpacks) - use color-coding, reading guides, grids, lined paper, hefty tabs, files, binders
  • Attention (only hear part of the directions, need frequent recueing or repetition) - try noise-canceling headphones, music (Hemi-Sync, Mozart or rap), vibrating pens, fidgets, visual cues with notes and/or picture cards
    • Environmental AT - change the sounds, smells (peppermint, cinnamon, citrus) or lights (turn off overhead lights, use incandescent lamps or full-spectrum flourescent bulbs)
    • 20% of all children, and 50% of all teenagers, need movement to learn - even small movements like chewing gun, sucking candy, playing with a small fidget, or sitting on a gel cushion provide enough movement that most students need
  • Prioritization (don't know what is important, extreme problem for students with OCD) - color coding from red/hot to blue/cold, use numbers or letters on a "to do" list, arrows and page tabs for important papers
  • Sequential (problems remembering steps in correct order, may also have memory and attention problems) - "to do" lists (paper and PDA), rubrics, checklists with visuals, talking photo album, digital recorders
    • Try to keep lists to 7 steps or less
    • Peg Word Schemas - use to memorize a sequence

Quick Overview Summary of AT Ideas for Studying & Organizing
The following chart was developed by Easter Seals Southwest Human Development AT Program, Phoenix, Arizona, 2009. Adapted from a project in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education. If you want to view without downloading, right-click below and choose "open link in new window."