by Cynthia Ruetsch


PUBLISHER: Don Johnston Incorporated (800)999-4660

COST: $29

INTENDED AUDIENCE: People with learning, visual or physical disabilities.

OPTIONAL HARDWARE FOR ALTERNATE ACCESS: TouchWindow or single switch with Macintosh Switch Interface or Ke:nx.

EDUCATIONAL GOALS: To develop calculator skills for completing group math work, checking answers and completing basic calculations and to provide calculator access for students who cannot use standard hand-held calculators.

First Bigcalc Screenshot

DESCRIPTION: Big:Calc works like an on-screen calculator with the addition of large, colorful numbers and speech output. It can be used alone or with database and spreadsheet programs. Students can choose one of six calculator styles: phone pad, number line, giant calc, keyboard, business calc, and pyramid. Each layout can be customized by selecting various button fonts and sizes and color combinations for the background, keypad numbers and answers. Additional custom options include:

Second Bigcalc Screenshot
  1. Voice output - Users can choose from a variety of voices; adjust the rate of speech from 50 to 500 words per minute; and select items to be read (e.g., speak buttons, speak numbers, speak results, etc.)
  2. Math menu - Users can select the way the math problems are calculated and displayed, e.g., show 1000's separators, show currency, set the number of places to the right of the decimal point for your results to be rounded to.
  3. Alternate computer access - Users can choose from touch screen, single switch, alternate keyboard, or other similar devices.

STRENGTHS: The custom options makes this a great program for students of all ages, abilities, and support needs. Students can complete their calculations using the keyboard and/or mouse depending on their preference. Math problems ranging from simple addition and subtraction to currency and numbers involving decimals and negative integers can all be calculated with ease. The ability to customize the font type and size and the color scheme provides students with vision impairments easy access. Finally, the voice output options offer the additional auditory support that is beneficial to many students.

WEAKNESSES: The quality of voice output will depend on the computer's capability to support this feature. Some voices were found to be very clear at low voice rates, however, numbers like fifteen and fifty tended to sound the same and would therefore be somewhat confusing to blind students relying on the voice output.

SUMMARY: Overall, students of all ages would find Big:Calc appealing. The various display options allow for individual preferences while providing easy access for students who may have difficulty with typical hand held calculator models.

Cynthia Ruetsch is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

Click here for copyright info.

Back to index...