Graspable Math

Math is beautiful and tremendously powerful in the hands of experts. On the other hand, for many students, math is frustrating and HARD....All those rules to memorize. All those steps to write and keep track of. In a time of powerful digital tools and online learning, most feel the easiest way to write and solve an equation is still by hand, on paper. We love paper, but shouldn't computers and touchscreens provide intuitive and fluid interfaces for math instead of getting in the way?

To make algebraic work experiential, a group of math educators, psychologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists - have developed Graspable Math (GM), algebra notation reconstructed for the digital space.  GM is a dynamic algebra notation tool that allows users to manipulate algebraic expressions and observe an immediate response to their mouse actions (e.g., dragging and dropping) or touchpad gestures. Thanks to GM, making algebraic transformations no longer needs to be an arbitrary, rule-driven process, but instead the demonstration of one’s structural intuition. In GM, algebraic expressions turn into interactive objects and support students in flexible reasoning, exploring structure, and inquiring into how math works. 

To learn more about GM, please visit the official Graspable Math's website.

Graspable Math is an interactive dynamic software that features many capabilities aimed towards helping students learn Algebra.  Under several grants provided by the US Department of Education to Graspable, the goal is to design and develop a research-based software that accessible and is ready to assist students in their learning experience with math. WPI has been a research partner on these projects. 

Below is a video of our amazing alumni Jackson Perry ('19, BS Math, Psychology, and Teacher Prep) describing  Graspable Math and his experience working as an RA on our research! 

Graspable Math Activities

Graspable Math Activities: Increasing Algebra Proficiency with Dynamic Notation Technology. Funded by IES ED/SBIR. Awards # 91990019C0034 and 91990018C0032 (2018-2021)

To try out the GMA app developed during the SBIR Phase I and Phase II, visit

Using the GM as a foundation, Graspable is developing Graspable Math Activities (GMA) - a student activity app with novel kinds of algebra practice and assessment tasks. With the goal of supporting both students and teachers in the journey of learning and teaching algebra, the activities in GMA promotes procedural fluency while allowing students to focus on strategy and the connection between concepts and procedures. Go to 

GMA lets you find and share activities with a teacher community, let’s you assign them to students, 

and see their live step-by step work!

Because the  GMA app is intended to supplement, not replace classroom teaching, the primary goal is to help teachers create their own customizable content to integrate the app into their classroom practice. The research at WPI is intended to study the iterative design, usability, and feasibility of these dynamic teacher tools in classrooms. The 5 targets of the Graspable Math Activities Website are to:

More information about the SBIR project can be found at  our Graspable Math Activities (GMA) project webpage. 

From Here to There! 

The Efficacy of From Here to There: A Dynamic Technology for Improving Algebraic Understanding. Funded by IES-CASL Award # R305A180401 (2018-2022)

Learning the Visual Structure of Algebra Through Dynamic Interactions with Notation. Funded by IES-CASL Award #R305A110060 (2011-2015)

Dr. Ottmar and her colleagues developed From Here to There, a dynamic algebra game funded by the Institute of Education Sciences in an earlier grant. Our team is conducted a large efficacy study funded by IES  with more than 4,000 students in the 2020-21 school year. The tested the efficacy of From Here to There, a dynamic technology designed to promote algebraic thinking, in comparison to two other educational technologies (problem sets with hints and feedback in ASSISTments and DragonBox) and a control. More information about this project can be found at the FH2T project website.  

If you would like to play From Here to There!, click here! You can make an account.