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A calculator is a small hand held device or computer program that complete mathematics ranging from basic arithmetic to more complex equations. Calculators are one of the most widely used assistive technologies. Depending on the capabilities of the model, calculators range in price from 1$ to over 100$, although many advanced calculator programs can be found online for free or on your smartphone. Some models are equipped with speech input and speech output, while others have large buttons and large displays.

The majority of research has found that calculators do in fact increase students’ efficiency and accuracy when completing math-based tasks (Bouck, & Bouck, 2008; Bouck, Bouck, & Hunley, 2015; Yakubova & Bouck 2014).  One study done by Bouck and Bouck (2008) found that calculators benefited both typical 6th grade students with 6 graders with disabilities (the majority of which being learning disabilities). These results were also found in 7th graders (Bouck, 2009), in both computation and word problems (Bouck, Bouck, & Hunley, 2015), and using both scientific and graphing calculators (Yakubova & Bouck 2014). One study however did find that providing students with learning disabilities and students with ADHD calculators did not significantly impact their anxiety or problem solving skills (Parks, 2009).  Perhaps the type of disability, and the type of problem mediate the efficacy of the calculator as an assistive technology, but further research is required to answer this question. At this time there is no evidence that calculators meet the standards of a differential boost model, in which the student with disabilities would benefit more from the use of a calculator than their typical peers.

Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable.


  • Often cheap or free.

  • Readily accessible

  • Easily implemented: most teachers and parents know how to use a calculator.


  • Depending on the functions required, calculators can be expensive 

To Consider

  • What functions does the student require for their work?

Special Consideration: Workflow

OS Compatibility
Internet Reliance
Optimized Use

Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed. 

$ - Under $5

$$ - Between $6 and $50

$$$ - Between $51 and $250

$$$$ - Over $250


Bouck, E. C. (2009). Calculating the Value of Graphing Calculators for Seventh-Grade Students With and Without Disabilities A Pilot Study. Remedial and Special Education, 30(4), 207-215.

Bouck, E. C., & Bouck, M. K. (2008). Does it add up? Calculators as accommodations for sixth grade students with disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(2), 17-32.

Bouck, E. C., Bouck, M. K., & Hunley, M. (2015). The calculator effect: Understanding the impact of calculators as accommodations for secondary students with disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 30(2), 77-88.

Parks, M. Q. (2009). Possible effects of calculators on the problem solving abilities and mathematical anxiety of students with learning disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Doctoral dissertation, Walden University).

Yakubova, G., & Bouck, E. C. (2014). Not all created equally: Exploring calculator use by students with mild intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 111-126.

Written by Harrison McNaughtan, Last Revision May 2018

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