Small software for mathematics on hand held technology

From June 2007 to May 2009
Project Leader(s): David Wright
Staff: Pam Woolner
Contact: David Wright
Sponsors: DfES and Texas Instruments
Partners: Simon Jayson (St Thomas More School, North Shields)


The introduction of interactive whiteboards into classrooms has seen an increasing use of ICT by teachers. However, this may mean that pupils are getting fewer opportunities to use ICT individually or in small groups (Smith et al, 2006) The project investigates the ways in which using small software applications on graphical calculators can bring access to ICT for pupils’ personal use into the mathematics classroom. It will also investigate the benefits afforded by the addition of a networking facility which allows pupils and teachers to share an interactive space. Small software which is sharply focused on specific topics is well established as a useful resource to support learning in mathematics. Specific examples include the SMILE software and ATM programs. One barrier to their ubiquitous use in mathematics classroom may be the perception that PCs are needed for this. Hand held technology like powerful graphical calculators are now able to run versions of this software and a wide range of software is now becoming available for them. Graphical calculators are often regarded as being mainly useful for graph plotting but this is just one dimension to their functionality. There is a growing research programme investigating generic hand held devices in education but specialised devices such as graphical calculators fall outside this area (Perry, 2003).

Research Paradigm

This is a situated enquiry, where the CfLaT researchers will work with teachers and students to investigate their experiences of using handheld graphic calculators for mathematics teaching and learning. Participation in the project, together with its results, will develop general understanding and theoretical knowledge about using specialised handheld technology. Research Methodology This research project is a suite of case studies which will investigate a range of issues around the ready availability of small software in mathematics classrooms through its implementation on graphical calculators. The project will build on and develop existing research knowledge about these devices (See, e.g., Hennessy, 1999; Burrill et al, 2002; Monaghan and Rodd, 2002). Data will be gathered through interview, observation (including video) and questionnaires.

Research Questions: Although it may appear that use of software in this format is simply different in scale to its implementation on conventional PCs, some pilot projects indicate possible added benefits. Therefore this study will focus on:

• How personal ownership of these devices with access to powerful software benefits pupils’ learning in mathematics outside school.

• Whether the use of this software in the context of the classroom stimulates problem-solving and higher level talk around mathematics

• Whether the ready access to this resource without the added effort needed to book PCs etc means that teachers will incorporate the use of ICT by pupils more frequently into their lessons.

• How the facility to network these devices and share data supports the learning and teaching of mathematics.


The planned outcomes are:

1. Practical guidance to teachers wishing to develop this aspect of their teaching.

2. The evaluation of a range of small software in this format.

3. The demonstration of a scheme of work incorporating this resource.

4. Case studies of particular lessons using this resource.

5. Guidance on pedagogical issues in the use of this resource.

6. Evaluation of pupil behaviour and learning when given access to this resource.


Burrill G, Allison J, Breaux G, Kastberg S., Leatham K and Sanchez W. TI 2002 pub CL2872

Hennessy, S. (1999).The potential of portable technologies for supporting graphing investigations. British Journal of Educational Technology, 30 (1), 57-60.

Monaghan and Rodd (2002). Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 11(1), 93-108. Perry D (2003). Handheld Computers (PDAs) in Schools Becta 2003 Coventry

Smith, F., Hardman, F. & Higgins, S. (2006). The impact of interactive whiteboards on teacher-pupil interaction in the national literacy and numeracy strategies. British Educational Research Journal 32(3): 443-457

For further information contact: David Wright Pam Woolner


Dr Pamela Woolner
Lecturer in Education

David Wright
Senior Research Associate, Research Centre for Learning and Teaching