Helping Non-Readers to Excel in Numeracy through Technology

Difficulty in reading can spill over into other subjects, affecting student performance. Our mission is to make math accessible and enjoyable for all students, while helping teachers run effective, independent centers. For some time now, Happy Numbers has been working to add auditory directions to our online math exercises. This new sound feature allows students to click on the directions within any exercise to hear them read aloud. Now, your primary students can strengthen their math skills without being hindered by reading ability!




Our sound feature is available on both iPads and PCs (using Google Chrome for Windows, Safari or Google Chrome for Macs). Your students will be able to access it in any new exercises they enter (they will need to finish current exercises before the sound loads).


Field testing has shown that students generally only rely on auditory directions to get started on an activity, so we have made it available by request. If students choose, they can simply tap or click on the text to hear it spoken. Otherwise, they can work at their own pace without having the text read aloud.


As you’ve probably realized, many of the exercises on Happy Numbers are quite self-explanatory:



Even very young learners with limited reading ability can probably figure out what is required here:


But other exercises require a solid understanding of the text in order to succeed:



In this case, our sound feature is critical to ensuring the success of all students. See for yourself in this short video of a student using the sound feature to overcome a language barrier:


Although English is not his first language, he is able to quickly understand the exercise by hearing the text read aloud on the iPad. He is so excited that he is even repeating the language he hears!


The text is spoken in a synthetic voice generated by the computer, so it is not meant to be a reading or language tool. It simply helps children understand the directions so they can develop mastery of math concepts. We will continue to improve the quality of the voice, as we expect the technology to improve with time. Right now, we are in the process of tuning the voice speed and other parameters.


Here are our observations after testing this feature in many different classrooms:


Grade 2: Students rarely used the feature. Teachers were happy to see them reading directions on their own and only relying on auditory prompts when they truly needed them, fostering reading in parallel to math. Isn’t that great?


Grade 1: Again, the sound feature was used infrequently and only as needed. The class was able to work without headphones because the rare use of the spoken directions was not distracting.


Kindergarten: Students were more reliant on the sound feature, requiring the use of headphones in the classroom. However, we noticed that once students had the ‘gist’ of the exercise, they did not need to repeat the directions. Note that when iPads are on ‘silent’ mode, sound will play through headphones but not aloud.


Happy Numbers thrives on the feedback of our users and, once again, your contributions have helped in the development of this valuable new feature. Please give it a try in your classroom and send us your impressions. Is the voice too fast or unappealing? Is the language clear? How are your students benefiting from it? Anything you would like to share!


Happy Numbers Team


*Note: If you use Happy Numbers on a PC, you will need to use the last version of Google Chrome (version 33 or later). For Mac, use Safari (version 7 or later) or Google Chrome.