Digital Equation Input Tools, sometimes just called digital input, are programs that have mathematical equations built into them. These tools allow users to select numbers and operators from a virtual keyboard. Some also allow drawing using a stylus or touch screen and will recognize shapes and numbers. These can be manipulated and dragged around a screen much like shapes can in a word document. Digital input tools differ from calculators in that they do not solve equations for the student. Rather, they allow a more organized writing out of key numbers and symbols, effectively making a student’s work neater and more readable. They also usually have some form of word processing notepad or grid on which the equations selected are automatically presented in a clean and readable fashion.
While digital input tools themselves have not been empirically tested, there is a cluster of literature supporting the theory behind them. First, it has been shown that math skills are learned, and ideally taught, iteratively (Rittle-Johnson, Siegler, & Alibali, 2001). That is, simple skills must be taught before higher level abstract or complex skills. It can therefore be assumed that if a simple skill a student has trouble with (e.g. messy work) is supported using a tool, it will likely make their math easier. Second, messy work has consistently been shown for many years to make revisions more challenging, as well as lead to more errors in math work (Clemments, 1982; Macan et al, 1990). Because of this, it can safely be assumed that applying a more organized tool to help students who tend to have messy, illegible, or disorganized work, will improve their ability. Finally, digital math instruction and techniques have been shown in a more general sense to help students, both motivational, and on test scores. When students using digital textbooks and associated media for math instruction were compared to hard copy books, the students with digital tools scored higher test results and also reported enjoying math more (Lewis, Noble, & Soiffer, 2010).
There is no research directly testing digital input tools for math. However there is strong empirical support for related areas of organizational support and digital media being an effective support.
Allows access to other digital tools
May help students focus on conceptual and numerical aspects of math
May make work easier to revise for students and teachers
Limited direct empirical research
May be more appealing if a student is already using online or other digital media
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Clements, M. A. (1982). Careless Errors Made by Sixth-Grade Children on Written Mathematical Tasks. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 13(2), 136. doi: 10.2307/748360
Lewis, P., Noble, S., & Soiffer, N. (2010). Using accessible math textbooks with students who have learning disabilities. Proceedings of the 12th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility - ASSETS 10. doi: 10.1145/1878803.1878829
Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L., & Phillips, A. P. (1990). College students time management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 760–768. doi: 10.1037//0022-06184.108.40.2060
Rittle-Johnson, B., Siegler, R. S., & Alibali, M. W. (2001). Developing conceptual understanding and procedural skill in mathematics: An iterative process. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 346–362. doi: 10.1037//0022-06220.127.116.116