Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 65, Issue 5, pp 1305–1323 | Cite as

Design approach of mathematics learning activities in a digital environment for children with autism spectrum disorders

  • Maria Isabel Santos
  • Ana Breda
  • Ana Margarida Almeida
Development Article


Learning environment on mathematics for autistic children is a prototype of a digital environment with dynamic adaptation features designed to offer activities towards the development of mathematical reasoning in children aged 6–12 years, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. This paper, with a primarily conceptual and analytical scope, discusses the mathematical difficulties that some children with ASD have, and presents strategies that can be used to overcome them. Based on a literature review and on the results of a preliminary study already conducted, we present results concerning the proposal of a set of learning activities for the prototype under development, specifically targeted to promote mathematical reasoning in students with ASD. Guidelines for future research are also discussed.


Autism spectrum disorders Digital technologies Mathematical reasoning Inclusion Access Learning activities Design research 



Autism spectrum disorders


Information and communication technologies


Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders


National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


Center for Research & Development in Mathematics and Applications



This work was supported in part by Portuguese funds through the CIDMA—Center for Research and Development in Mathematics and Applications, and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (“FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia”), within Project UID/MAT/04106/2013. M. I. Santos also acknowledges the support of FCT through the Research Grant SFRH/BD/108154/2015.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Isabel Santos
    • 1
  • Ana Breda
    • 2
  • Ana Margarida Almeida
    • 3
  1. 1.CIDMAUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics/CIDMAUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Communication and Art/CIC.Digital/DIGIMEDIAUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal

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