Creating MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literature Integration Tool Kits Part 1: Low-Tech Tools

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We hope you’ve had a chance to read last week’s outstanding posting to this Microsoft Hot Topics Accessibility blog by our colleagues, Judith Schoonover and Sally Norton-Darr, titled See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me: Adapting Books for Diverse Learners. They described a wide variety of ways to make books accessible for all learners through multisensory adaptations. Using these strategies, our Loudoun County Public Schools Assistive Technology Team has created numerous adapted book kits that are available to our school staff to borrow and use with their students. The adapted book kits are flying off our AT Lending Library shelves!

In addition to our interest in making books accessible, we have been exploring low tech to high tech strategies for making math and science accessible to diverse learners. In June 2013, we posted a five-part series on this Hot Topics Accessibility blog titled Using Microsoft Tools to Provide Access to Math and Science for Diverse Learners.

As we continued to do research on this topic, we became intrigued with the idea of integrating math and literature. Research shows that linking math instruction to children’s literature can:

• Stimulate students’ imagination, enhance engagement in learning, build confidence towards math learning

• Increase students’ math achievement, comprehension of math concepts, problem-solving skills, use of math vocabulary

• Provide real-world contexts that bring meaning to abstract math concepts, language, and symbols

• Create a more positive classroom atmosphere and help teachers become more secure in teaching math content

With this research in mind, we merged our interests in adapted books and accessible math tools to create MATHLIT Kits: Math Assistive Technology Hands-On Literature Integration Tool Kits. These kits incorporate literature into math instruction with low to high tech tools that integrate math-themed storybooks with hands-on math experiences. Our goal is to engage students to learn math concepts through language, multimedia, and the manipulation of concrete and virtual objects. The materials in our kits are created with Microsoft Office tools, Internet resources, and other free or inexpensive materials. MATHLIT Kits incorporate Universal Design for Learning principles to provide access for all learners by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression.

Mathlit kit

The first step in creating a MATHLIT Kit is determining which math concepts you want to teach. Are you looking to support IEP goals? Common Core State Standards? State Standards of Learning? Once you’ve determined this, the next step is to select your math-themed storybooks. The following resources provide math literature lists that specify related math concepts and grade levels.

• Math Solutions (K-8)

• University of Chicago (K-6)

• Miami-Dade County Public Schools

There is a wealth of lesson plans available online integrating math and literature, with individual and group activities that include online and offline activities. You can use them as is, or customize them to meet your needs. Just Google the book title and the search term “lesson plans.” We were impressed with the quality and diversity of the lesson plans that people have shared online. Many of the storybooks, especially those written by Marilyn Burns, include lesson plans and extension activities.

The next step is to find and create low tech and high tech materials to support access and content. These can include:

• Book adaptations (low tech and high tech): visuals, audio, tactile, props, page fluffers, easels

• Low tech materials: adapted math tools, manipulatives, communication visuals, art, movement, music, drama

• High tech resources: MS Office tools, virtual manipulatives, online interactive games, videos, free downloads that can be accessed on a computer or on an interactive whiteboard

Once you’ve collected and created your MATHLIT Kits materials, how can you manage them? We suggest the following ideas:

• Select a durable container for the book and support materials. We’re using plastic scrapbook boxes that we obtained from craft stores. Look for sales and check to see if the stores give teacher discounts.

• Create an inventory checklist of your materials to help you keep track of what’s in the kit.

• Explore options for storing your electronic resources, such as videos, audio recordings, PowerPoint adapted books, lesson plan files, website hyperlinks, and so on. These resources could be stored on a flash drive or CD/DVD; a MS Word table, Excel spreadsheet, or OneNote notebook with hyperlinks; or an online management system, such as CMS, Dropbox, Google Drive, Wiki, Edmodo, or create your own website.

We'd like to share with you some of our low tech MATHLIT Kit materials. Low tech materials:

• Provide multisensory input (visual, tactile, kinesthetic, auditory)

• Support access to education for students with different learning styles and abilities

• Are inexpensive or totally free; some are made with recycled materials

Adapted book

Adapted Books

You might be it legal to adapt published books to make them accessible to individuals who cannot manipulate traditional formats? The Chafee Amendment (Sec. 121 of the Copyright Act) provides that “it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities." Please note that you must own a copy of the original book that you are adapting.

MATHLIT kits contain adapted books, electronic and hard copy, for use by students with disabilities who have difficulty accessing standard print books. Modifications to help students interact with the literature include:

• Visuals (picture symbols, photos, graphics from book, simplified text)

• Tactile (textures, manipulatives, props)

• Auditory (narration, text to speech, talking photo album)

Remember to check out the blog posting See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me: Adapting Books for Diverse Learners by Sally Norton-Darr and Judith Schoonover for a virtual gold mine of adapted book resources!

Book Supports and Stabilizers

Cut the pages from the book and laminate or cover them with clear contact paper or place them in zip-lock baggies or plastic page protectors. Then, bind or place them in 3-ring binders or photo albums. The pages are now more durable and easier to handle, can be wiped clean, and can have tactile materials or Velcroed items (visuals or props) attached to them.

Book page protector

Slantboards can be made from a large 3-ring binder to provide a more upright angle to see the book and turn the pages. Reading easels can also be made from a 3-ring binder. Place a small piece of hook Velcro on front and back, and attach a strip of loop Velcro or tempo loop to both pieces to hold easel open.

Book supports

Attach magnet strips to the front and back book covers, and place on a metal cookie sheet to hold the book open, making it easier to turn the pages.

Attach Velcro to the front and back book covers, and place on a loop carpet square to hold the book open, making it easier to turn the pages.

Page Fluffers

Page fluffers create a space between the pages, making it easier to grasp and turn the pages. They can be made from sticky-back foam or weather stripping, Velcro, picture frame dots, hot glue dots, sponges, large paper clips glued onto foam or cardboard squares, beads placed on paper clips, miniature clothespins, or popsicle sticks.

Page fluffers

Reading Communication Boards

Communication boards with visuals provide opportunities for students to comment, request, and ask or answer questions related to the books. With a few core vocabulary visuals, students can communicate about many different books.

Communication 1

Boardmaker Symbols

Communication 2

Pixon Symbols

Baltimore City Public Schools at has graphics for more than 700 book titles. You need Boardmaker software to open them; a free 30 day trial download is available at

Math Foldables ©

Curriculum driven 3-D student-made graphic organizers and manipulatives provide visual and tactile supports; many are created in PowerPoint.


Websites with free foldables:






Math File Folder Activities

Interactive learning activities that are mounted inside a file folder!

File folders

Websites with free downloadable file folder activities:





Many of the items on the following sites can also be made into file folder activities:



Math Shoebox Work Tasks

Provide structured hands-on activities, all contained within a box! Pictures can be added to provide visual step-by-step directions.


Sample shoebox work tasks:




Customized Graph Paper

Create customized graph paper with MS Word tables. The size and colors of the cells, columns, and rows can be customized for visual and physical accessibility. You can laminate the paper and use with dry erase markers, or place in plastic page protectors. Instructions are available at

Graph paper

Mini-Offices and Cue Cards

Tape two file folders together to form a mini-office that can be placed on a desk, or use a CD case to display math cue cards.

Mini office CD cue card

Mini-offices and cue cards can be created in MS Word or PowerPoint, or downloaded from free websites, such as:




Tactile Counting

• Use a hole punch on sticky-back foam sheets to create dots to place on number lines, rulers, or TouchMath© numbers for tactile cues.

• Place a bead on a pipe cleaner to create a manipulative number line. Move the bead along the line while counting.

Tactile counting

Wikki Stix

This colorful wax-covered yarn sticks to almost anything, provides great tactile and visual input, and is easy to manipulate and form into shapes! Check out the resources at

Wikki stix

PowerPoint Manipulatives

PowerPoint slides can be printed to create:

• Adapted books (large or small, depending on how many slides you print per page; make them interactive by adding visuals or tactile materials)

PPT book

• Flash cards; instructions are available at and

• Fact flippers (the question is on the flap, lift the flap to display the answer); instructions are available at

PPT flip quiz

In our next blog posting on MATHLIT Kits, we will share high tech resources and strategies, including MS Office tools, virtual manipulatives, online interactive games, videos, and free downloads that can be accessed on a computer or on an interactive whiteboard.

Please share your ideas and resources to make math accessible to diverse learners. To post or view comments, you’ll need to become a Microsoft Partners in Learning member and create a free login.

Let’s collaborate!

Cynthia Feist and Tara Jeffs

Pictures and videos


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