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iPad Calculator Apps and the Order of Operation

When deciding on a calculator app for students with visual impairments, you have to consider a few features.  Some of the considerations are:

  • Size of the numbers and operations on the keys (for low vision users)

  • Color contrast between the keys and background

  • Reflow resolution when using Zoom (screen magnification feature)

  • How well it works with VoiceOver for users needing screen readers

That is all good if you are keeping this in mind, but here is just one more glitch concerning calculator apps.  It's called "Order of Operation".  So what does this mean? A math problem that does not have any parenthesis in the equation yet contains addition and multiplication operations, the order of operation rule states that the multiplication operation is solved first before addition. Huh?

Let's take a math problem like 2+3x4=n.  If you solve this problem from left to right, the answer will be 20.  If you solve this problem by the order of operation rule, the answer is 14.  This is a "big" difference. It can affect the student's grade on a test or assignment.

Now here is where the iPad comes into play.  Calculator apps come in all shapes and sizes for the iPad.   Some are great for students with visual impairment, while others not.  Yet even if an app "appears" right for the student, you must check it for order of operation.  Not all apps are created equal.

So far 14 calculator apps were checked and only 7 follow the order of operation.  Here below area a list of the seven apps.


Big Calc Free by Tioga Design, LLC.

calculator thumbnail


iHandy Calculator HD Pro by iHandy Inc

calculator thumbnail


Calculator+ by

calculator plus


Calculator S for Ipad by idea2real

calculator s


This is really JumboCalculatorApp by Steven Mayer

big calc free thumbnail


Calculator √ by EmpoweredDesign 

first calculator thumbnail


RetroCalc Free! By futuremedia

retro calc thumbnail 

Here are a couple of warnings about these apps.  Many of the calculator apps are just labeled "calculator", and not all of them may be accessible with VoiceOver.  For VoiceOver and Zoom information on these apps go to

Patrick Van Geem
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How to use VoiceOver on Mac OS X Mountain Lion

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