Instructional Software

This blog post will discuss the five different types of instructional software as discussed by Roblyer (2016).  The discussion will include a definition of each type of software and how each is applied specifically in a high school math course

Drill and Practice

Drill and practice software allows students to work individually on one problem at a time while receiving feedback (Roblyer, 2016, p. 79).  It is crucial to understand that drill and practice does not provide instruction to students and needs to be used to supplement practice after instruction.  Many drill and practice software programs operate in a similar fashion to traditional flashcards where feedback is given after each answer.  Another form is chart fill-in activities where feedback is given after multiple problems have been answered (Roblyer, 2016, p.79). The last form is branching drills where the student is direct to problems based on the performance of the previous answer.

When selecting drill and practice software it is important to consider the following characteristics: control over the presentation rate, answer judging, and feedback.  As a teacher you want to ensure that student decide when to move on to the next question so that students are not rushed. Additionally, the program needs to provide appropriate feedback that encourages correct responses.

Drill and practice software has the benefit of helping students with automaticity so that students can recall lower level skills in order to perform high order thinking.  Drill and practice provides immediate feedback, increases the student motivation, and saves teachers time (Roblyer, 2016, p.81).  Some pitfalls of drill and practice are misuse and overuse.

Examples of drill and practice software for the high school math class include basic operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The following sites offer online drill and practice for students


Tutorial software is design so that students do not need any additional resources or support to understand the material.  In addition to demonstrations and instructional time, tutorials also include practice and feedback as well.  Tutorial software comes in two different forms: linear and branching.  Linear models go through a specific sequence.  Branching models provide learners with alternate paths based on their work (Robyler, 2016, 83-84).  It is very challenging to find good tutorial software, but it should include more than reading for students, appropriate pedagogy, the ability to provide appropriate feedback to students, and record keeping data.

The advantage of tutorial software is students are able to move at their own pace and receive the same motivation and feedback from drill and practice work.  However despite the advantage of tutorial programs there are not many well-designed products and the products are costly to make.  Tutorial programs also do not provide the same experiences that hands on learning can give students.

Tutorial software is becoming more useful through technology integration in and out of the classroom. As teachers and schools transition and utilize flipped classrooms and blended learning styles the need to better tutorial programs will need to rise to the occasion.  Many tutorial programs are currently used for remediation within my school.  The advantage of tutorial software can be to help students continue to work on concepts through remediation.

Examples of tutorial software include:


Simulations are computerized models of real and imagines scenarios that can be controlled for time and other factors.  The primary purpose of simulates is to allow students to see how various concepts work.  Simulations have the power to slow time down to see the intricate parts or speed time up so that students can see change that happens slowly (Roblyer,  2016, p.87).  Many simulations also allow for manipulation so students have power and control over what is happening.  Simulations provide students with the opportunity to experience things that may not be safe or happen over many years.  The best time to use a simulation is when the real life application is too dangerous, very distracting, or happens too quickly or slowly.

As with any instructional software simulations need to be used when real life experiences are not possible for students.  The best times to use a simulation are for role playing, in place of field trips, to help students explore different concepts, and to encourage group work.  One of the most useful simulations for math is a financial simulation of the stock market or managing money.  Other math simulations now include videos of different physical activities so that students have the opportunity to analyze the video to apply math concepts.

Examples of simulation software include:

Instructional Games

Instructional Games are designed to teach students in a game-like situation with rules and competition (Roblyer, 2016, p. 92).  Students are inclined to play games and enjoy playing games which is the major appeal of instructional games.   The major differences between instructional games and other types of software are game rules, competition and entertainment. The challenge with instructional games is that students are more involved in the game than in their learning (Robyler, 2016, p.92).  Additionally many educators are hesitant to adopt instructional games in the classroom therefore there is not a large body of research evidence to support their use.  The advantage of instructional games is that students desire to play games and compete gives students the motivation to play the games and learn.

The relative advantage of instructional games falls primarily on student motivation.  Other advantages for the math classroom today would be to teach group and cooperative work or as a reward.  In the high school math classroom it is hard to find instructional games that have advanced graphics and game play to keep the students entertain.

Examples of instruction games:

Problem Solving 

Problem Solving Software is designed to help students work through solving problems.  The focus in on recognizing the goal, a process, and the mental activity of solving a problem (Robyler, 2016, p.97). The advantages of problem solving software are that it can help student visualize mathematics and make connection between math and the world outside the classroom.  The problems help to keep the students interest and motivate in learning and solving the problem.  Problem solving is one of the most desired skills in our 21st century work force.  The challenge is in selecting appropriate software as many companies will claim that the software does more than it actually does.  The other challenge is helping students to transfer the skills from the software into more problems in the classroom.  The relative advantage of problem solving is that students are highly motivated and learn how to tackle problems outside of the classroom.

Examples of problem solving software include:

  • Desmos


Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education.


7 thoughts on “Instructional Software

  1. Kristin,

    I definitely agree with many of the points you made in this post, especially when it comes to problem-solving software. In Minnesota, there is a huge emphasis on solving word problems and working with real-life situations on the standardized tests. We don’t use the Common Core in Minnesota, but from what I’ve heard, there’s a similar emphasis on problem-solving. Even though it’s important to teach students problem-solving skills, it can be difficult to keep them motivated to learn them, especially if they’re frustrated. That’s where things like educational games come in, as you mentioned. Students are often more motivated to play games when they don’t realize they’re learning.

    Overall, great post!



    1. Thanks for your comment. We are no longer using Common Core in South Carolina either. My goal for this year is to help teacher my students about having a growth mindset to offset the frustration in problem-solving. I also believe that there are times when students need to learn some foundational skills before they can begin to start solving some problems.


  2. Hello Kristin
    I enjoyed reading your post. Overall, I agree with most of what you wrote. I do not necessarily agree with the entire statement:
    “In the high school math classroom it is hard to find instructional games that have advanced graphics and game play to keep the students entertain.”
    I do agree that it is difficult to find instructional games, however, I would question your motivation in using them if it is to keep students entertained. I think that you probably meant to write that student engagement can be dependent upon the graphics because of students will compare these graphics to the games they play on Xbox, Playstation, etc..
    You gave some excellent resources which I have not seen yet. These include:
    and the cereal simulation found at
    What is the H&R Block Challenge?



    1. Yes Kevin, your wording of my statement is a better reflection of my opinion on this matter. H & R Block Challenge is a budget and finance simulation. Students receive a paycheck and have bills to pay. They also learn about different types of saving and insurance as well as experience “surprises” that they are responsible for. Here is the link. I should have added the link to the original post.


  3. Hi Kristin,
    I enjoyed learning about the different software examples you wrote about. The H&R block challenge looks so fun! Do you think it works better as an example of a problem solving software instead of a simulation?


    1. Hi Lizzette,
      I would be torn about this decision. The reason I said it was a simulation is that it does speed up a real life situation of paying bills and managing money to give students an example. The students also have so solve problems as well in how they manage their money. I would almost say that it fits into both categories.


  4. Kristin,
    I enjoyed your post. Your examples were helpful, and I plan on passing them along to the teachers in the math department at my high school. I agree with your struggles to find good online instructional games for high school math classrooms. I know this is a frustration at my school for the math teachers as well. Thank you for your insights.


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