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Making Math Visual With Digital Apps and Google Workflow

Explore and create
Pre-registration required

Explore and create : BYOD

Tuesday, June 25, 3:15–4:15 pm
Location: 118A

Tod Johnston   Kailey Rhodes  
Empower students to make their math visual with free digital versions of common K-5 manipulatives and models. Elevate your classroom technology use to externalize and share students’ mathematical reasoning with meaningful, flexible digital tools and Google workflows.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Attendees can access web-based, free apps within the session, or they can download the apps for free onto their devices.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Online tools, apps and resources
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: Math
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
Creative Communicator
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
Empowered Learner
  • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will be introduced to the set of free Math Learning Center apps via hands-on activities and classroom-reproducible investigations. The virtual manipulatives—available as both iOS apps and web apps—parallel the most common physical manipulatives and models in elementary mathematics and can be flexibly used to deepen student understanding of foundational math concepts. The MLC apps empower students to make choices about the tools, models, and strategies they use to visualize and share their thinking.

In the session, participants will be challenged to “do the math” with an app of their choice and share their thinking with the group using Google Slides to facilitate an open math strategy share.

We will move this understanding towards effective classroom application, demonstrating the potential to extend in-class activities through the use of Google tools, including Slides, Forms, Drive, and Sites. Participants will explore classroom-tested, practical Google applications for this activity specifically, and for the math classroom in general. By the end of the session, participants will have a Google workflow with the MLC Apps to bring active (not passive) technology use into the math classroom and foster meaningful strategy shares and discussions.

Evidence of success include well-received presentations at both math and technology conferences including the OR Google Summit (2017), IntegratED (2018), TCEA (2018), and NCTM (2018). To gain a sense of the session content and instructional methods, to view the Google Site used at TCEA:


1. Warm-up: Energize and engage participants with Which One Doesn’t Belong Activity. Draw connection between visual models and mathematical reasoning. (5 min.)

2. What are the MLC Apps? Introduce The Math Learning Center apps through guided demonstration and compare and contrast with physical manipulatives. Give participants an opportunity to explore one or more apps in depth and consider classroom applications and use-cases and open exploration. (10 min)

3. Hands-On Math Solving: Participants work in pairs and small groups to choose an app and solve a upper elementary math problem. They add their solution to a collaborative Google Slide deck to share their strategy with the group. The whole group reviews and discusses the different visual models and solutions. (30 min)

4. Applications in the Math Class & the In-Class Google Workflow: Discuss how to implement the now-complete Google Slide deck as a class teaching and sharing tool. Explore other Google applications—including the use of Google Drive, Docs, Slides, and Forms—to provide several options to curate and extend student work. (15 min)

Supporting research

1. Clarity Innovations Blog: Using Visual Models to Spark Mathematical Discussion

2. Algebraic Thinking in Arithmetic Research Brief (NCTM):

3. Strategies for Discussion Research Brief (NCTM):

4. Children's Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction by Carpenter et. al. (

5. Math Learning Center

6. Jo Boaler

More [+]


Tod Johnston, Clarity Innovations
Kailey Rhodes, Northwest Academy

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