Bone, E. K., & Bouck, E. C. (2018). Evaluating calculators as accommodations for secondary students with disabilities . Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal , 23 (1), 35–49.

Journal Article

Bone, E. K., & Bouck, E. C. (2018). Evaluating calculators as accommodations for secondary students with disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 23(1), 35–49.


Attention problem; Calculation chart (static); Calculation device or software (interactive); Extended time; K-12; Learning disabilities; Math; Middle school; Student survey; U.S. context




Student performance with and without scientific calculators was examined. Participants also had extended time and multiplication charts identified as supports on their individualized education program (IEP) plans.


Five grade 8 students with math-related disabilities participated; four also were identified with attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. They were all enrolled in a pull-out special education math class. Additional demographic data including age, gender, and ethnicity were reported. Participants attended a middle school in a school district in the Midwest (U.S.); the community and the school were further described demographically.

Dependent Variable

Math problems based on Common Core State Standards were presented in five testing sessions; math computation items comprised the tests during baseline and intervention phases, then math word problems were given to check for skill generalization. The researchers implemented an A-B-A-B design, in which they alternated between offering and not offering the accommodation. When calculators were offered, the researchers also recorded whether students used them. The researchers tracked the number of math problems with correct answers, as well as the number of items attempted; partial credit was given for partial completion of items (such as evidence of steps of task completed). A nine-item survey that explored the social validity of using calculators was also given at the beginning and end of the study.


The participants mostly attempted most problems whether using scientific calculators or not; individual variations were reported. Students all scored higher (for more correct answers) when they used calculators; individual participant scoring patterns were also reported. Students tended to complete more steps of problems and also gave more correct answers with calculator use; individual variations were reported, including about 2-step, 3-step, and 4-step problems. There were differences among the participants about choosing to use or not use the calculator for steps of each of the five items when it was available, with a range of using calculators between about 40% and 80% of the time. The survey results indicated that the social validity of using calculators was higher overall at the end of the study. Researchers pointed out that "Four students said they felt smarter when they were able to compute a math problem without using a calculator before taking part in the intervention, but after the intervention only two students felt this way" (p. 46) and noted that students might have realized that "calculators are helpful, but only if they had the knowledge to use the device appropriately" (p. 46). Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.