MathTech: Patch Tool & Drawing Pad


by Kate Fanelli

Kate Fanelli

Kate Fanelli

As a teacher who spent the entirety of her 14-year classroom career with high school students, I enjoy learning about mathematics at earlier levels in my new role as a consultant. Beth Poss, at the 2015 Maryland Assistive Technology Network (MATN) Fall Institute, presented “Addressing Mathematics in Early Childhood: Apps, Tools and Strategies to Build Early Mathematics Concepts for the Youngest Learners.” The presentation was streamed nationwide and is available through the MATN website. Editor’s Note: To see the webinar you must have a Johns Hopkins University & Medicine login, but you can download the handouts.

Research tells us that early childhood math understanding is not only important for skill development at early ages, but is predictive of both math and reading achievement in later grades. Providing young learners ample opportunities to play, interact, and explore via activities specifically designed to promote mathematical understanding is critical to building a strong foundation for future learning.

Ms. Poss described seven qualities of effective early childhood apps:

  1. Is open-ended to support play and problem solving
  2. Promotes concept development, literacy, and language through play and exploration
  3. Includes rich, engaging activities that invite a high degree of interactivity and control by the user
  4. Encourages movement, both fine and gross motor
  5. Enhances and encourages interactions with adults or peers, rather than promoting solitary exploration
  6. Is culturally diverse and free of stereotypes
    Meets a developmental need

patch toolOne app that meets these requirements is Patch Tool (free) from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Illuminations website. Patch Tool allows students to explore, play, find patterns, and compose/decompose shapes using virtual pattern blocks. The app allows exploration with transformational geometry including flips and rotations. Activity instructions encourage students to notice features of their creations, and hypothesize about what would happen if they extended patterns.

drawing padAnother app is Drawing Pad (iOS) ($1.99). This app features stickers, stamps and a variety of drawing tools to explore shapes and figures. Teachers can import photos they have taken for students to interact with. Students can also move objects to create and recreate sets.

Whatever mathematics learning experiences you provide, be sure to align the instruction with developmentally appropriate activities, and ask students to think mathematically. This will contribute to a strong foundation of mathematics understanding from which young learners will continue to grow.

Kate Fanelli is the math accessibility specialist for Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)2, a state of Michigan initiative that promotes and supports high quality mathematics education for ALL students. Follow (Mi)2 on Facebook ( or on Twitter (@MI2_Math). Contact Kate at


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