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K12 math instruction: Digital and physical

Math instruction continues to move further into digital territory, but many lessons still depend on hands-on activities and nondigital materials, such as textbooks.

Schools choose computer-based and online curricula because they can provide more engaging ways for students to learn—from playing games and watching instructional videos to creating graphs and drawing shapes digitally. These programs focus on real-world scenarios to which students can relate.

For teachers, these digital options save time by automatically creating student progress reports and assigning lessons based on student performance.

Elements of Mathematics: Foundations

Institute for Mathematics & Computer Science

This online curriculum covers topics from pre-algebra to precalculus for grades 6 through 8. It features automatic grading, an online gradebook and weekly progress reports. Teachers don’t need additional training to use the curriculum. It exceeds state and Common Core math standards.


McGraw-Hill Education

This online math program with customizable lessons for grades 3 through 12 uses artificial intelligence to identify how well students know certain math concepts. The program generates student results in a color-coded chart where colors represent difficulty. Students have access to games, and solve problems by entering numbers into interactive answer boxes and receive automatic feedback from animated animals.


eSpark Learning

eSpark, an app for pre-K through 5, allows students to learn at their own pace. Learners log into a private account on their personal tablet and progress through lessons by tapping on various icons laid out from left to right. Icons lead to quizzes with audio assistance and introductory videos that explain lessons. At the end of each section, students record themselves talking about what they learned.

Summit Curriculum

Fuel Education

This computer-based math curriculum for grades 6 through 8 features introductory videos and math problems that connect concepts to real-life scenarios. In one video, an animated girl compares decimals to a pattern she’s drawing. A multiple-choice question on geometric shapes begins by asking about the president’s inaugural parade path. The curriculum also features an adaptive question engine to support each student’s strengths and weaknesses.



ExploreLearning offers online, interactive math simulations for grades 3 through 12 called “Gizmos.” For example, students learn about probability in a Gizmo where they spin a wheel. The ticker may land on “no prize,” a small prize or a big prize. A worksheet with questions and answers provides exercises for further study. Each Gizmo also comes with a vocabulary sheet and teacher guide.


Math Istation

Students learn math concepts by playing games on this computer-based curriculum. Students in pre-K through grade 1 join rock stars Donnie and the Decimals as Math Superstars on a US concert tour. In grades 2–5, students partner with them again by taking on hidden identities as Secret Equation Man. Parents have 24/7 access to the program and specialists can also provide PD.

Eureka Math (PK-12)

Great Minds

This digital curriculum for pre-K through 12 comes with printed materials such as student workbooks and teacher editions. Educators have access to accompanying PD videos and can choose from various materials and tools, including kits with rocker scales and magnetic numbers.

Smarter Solving

Reasoning Mind

The Smarter Solving web-based math program challenges students to solve real-world problems. Students can read or listen to complex problems that gradually increase in difficulty through step-by-step questions. When students get a question wrong, the program presents a scaffolded solution to a different version of the problem with helpful pictures or step-by-step animations. Teachers have access to incorrect student answers and customizable, color-coded reports of student performance by standard.



This Chrome extension lets teachers create equations and graphs on a computer, smartphone or tablet. Teachers can use their keyboard or touchscreen to write or type an expression, and the program will convert it into an accurate, digital math equation or graph. When teachers dictate formulas, the program will ignore non-math words, such as “um.” EquatIO also works with Google Forms for creating quizzes. Students can add sketches, diagrams and other notations to their work, like they would on a worksheet.

Woot Math Polls

Woot Math

Teachers can run real-time quizzes, polls and assessments from a computer, tablet or smartphone. Each task features an area where students show their work. Clicking on the text icon lets students type out answers. The pencil icons allows them to draw pictures. Students can also create tables and graphs, as well as insert math expressions, such as the square root symbol. A digital calculator helps solve difficult equations.


Curriculum Associates

i-Ready’s K12 online program identifies areas where students are struggling and provides easier or harder questions depending on previous answers. Students learn math concepts through stories starring a range of animated characters, including monsters and a time-traveling family. Progress reports provide action plans for struggling students and advise on which tools are needed to help them.

Math Expressions 2018

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This K6 curriculum features digital content and hands-on material. For example, students can manipulate a digital character on an iPad gaming app by touching physical blocks in front of a mounted camera on the tablet. Other hands-on materials include activity cards and board games. The curriculum also saves time for teachers. An app can automatically grade work and assign student tasks based on how well they perform on lessons. Teachers can view these reports and access PD videos.

Less digital math emphasis

Even math programs that still focus heavily on textbooks offer digital versions or computer-based exercises to go along with certain lessons. These products provide hands-on assignments and group activities where students use math terms in conversation with one another.

Considering that math PD is especially effective in person, more companies are starting to provide schools with on-site teacher training.

ORIGO Stepping Stones 2.0

ORIGO Education

ORIGO Stepping Stones 2.0 is an innovative program for K6 that integrates print and digital technology to give educators a flexible and balanced mathematics solution. This world-class comprehensive instructional program has been developed for elementary teachers who are implementing college and career readiness standards.

Guided Math Workstations Grades K-2

Teacher Created Materials

This K2 book series provides a variety of group math tasks that teach students how to use math words in conversation. In the game “Shake and Spill,” for example, students spill counters onto a picture of an apple. A card with talking points then guides students’ discussion based on how many counters fell inside and outside the apple. Each task includes teacher directions, game instructions, materials and talking points.

Big Ideas Math: Modeling Real Life

Big Ideas Learning

Students connect math problems to real-life situations in this new series of books for K5. For example, a chapter begins by mentioning why you see fireworks before you hear them and then reveals that you can use multiplication to calculate how far away you are from them. Each book contains visual math activities, such as matching images with colorful numbers. Students stay engaged through characters that provide tips denoted in word bubbles.


Voyager Sopris Learning

Numbers provides K8 teachers PD in several key areas: introduction to numbers, geometry and measurement, fractions and decimals, ratios and proportions, and algebraic thinking. Nationally certified trainers offer two days of in-person training per module. Teachers can also receive in-class coaching and support for creating professional learning communities.