Multi-Sensory Math Teaching Tools in Special Education

Mother using digital tablet to help daughter with arithmetic
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Multi-sensory math teaching tools such as TouchMath benefit special needs students for a variety of reasons. TouchMath has been used in schools for many years and is quite successful for students who have difficulty learning math through language-based methods and memorization of facts.

Once students become familiar with the teaching method, they can apply TouchMath to many important life skills, such as balancing checkbooks, calculating costs at the grocery store, counting money, and making change. The program can be used for all ages, and the publishers offer a program designed for adult learners as well.

How TouchMath Works

Overall, TouchMath is an effective method for teaching basic mathematical operations to students who struggle with math or have specific learning disabilities in math such as dyscalculia. TouchMath is multi-sensory and allows students to see, say, hear, and touch math. It's colorful and engaging materials and the overall ease of the program will appeal to math-phobic children as well as teachers and parents who might otherwise be intimidated by traditional math teaching materials.

Pros
  • Teaches math operations

  • Discourages calculator use

  • Employs tactile methods

  • Makes math concepts visible

  • Free resources for parents

Cons
  • Expensive for home use

  • May require teacher support

  • Best for teachers who embrace alternative methods

Pros

This multi-sensory math tool has a number of benefits for students with learning disabilities and typical learners alike. Additionally, TouchMath does offer programs specifically for homeschoolers.

TouchMath effectively teaches students how to perform math operations and frees students from using a calculator for basic math skills. Its tactile methods appeal to diverse learners with hands-on learning styles. It also makes math concepts "visible" to students who have difficulty with the language of math.

There are some free materials online for print, and the manufacturer may provide consumers with free materials from the program to try online before they decide to take the plunge and buy it.

Cons

While TouchMath offers a wide range of benefits to all kinds of learners, the program isn't cheap. The cost of the software on their website ranges from $100 for a single license system, to $3,000 for a 25 system license. Plus, there are numerous sets of worksheets, cards, posters, manipulatives, magnets, etc. for purchase that can add up.

Regular classroom teachers who use the program must be open to trying alternative methods. In addition, use in regular classrooms may initially require additional teacher support. So, teachers without classroom aides may have difficulty going it alone with TouchMath.

TouchMath Highlights

TouchMath has a number of features. They're outlined below to give would-be users a better idea of what to expect from purchasing the program.

  • Students learn to touch points (called "TouchPoints") on numbers to perform operations.
  • Students memorize the points and patterns and use them to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
  • Visual models are gradually faded as students internalize the method. Eventually, they no longer need visual supports.
  • It is effective for students with learning disabilities as well as students with autism and other language processing disorders.
  • The program offers workbooks and sheets, videos, and hands-on manipulatives such as foam numbers with raised touchpoints.
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